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Change Management- 5 Essential Skills For The Change Manager

Change Management- 5 Essential Skills For The Change Manager

Many companies accept that managing organizational change in the modern world has become a part of everyday operations. Astute organizations have even begun to develop a permanent function within themselves to specifically manage change, which we call enterprise change management capability, staffed by specialized change practitioners. Today’s change managers are called to develop a multi-disciplinary skill set that comprises a unique blend of business savvy, interpersonal skills, and creativity in order to manage all the moving parts of an organization.

In this article, we take a look at five key skills to have when managing change. While these skills are crucial for change practitioners and senior level executives, they are of course invaluable for anyone involved in change initiatives in order to maximize success.

Communication

Being able to communicate properly is possibly the most important skill for change managers. Change managers must be able to mediate between the different stakeholders involved in the process, from board members to front-line workers, using effective communication skills. Changes in the workplace can be stressful for everyone involved, and proactive communication is needed to:

  • Create the impetus for change, while valuing previous achievements
  • Articulate a compelling vision and strategy to all participants and stakeholders, motivating them to progress toward a desired end-state
  • Build and strengthen relationships, trust, and psychological safety amongst members of the organization
  • Convey uncomfortable truths (ex. lay-offs, downsizing) with empathy and rationality
  • Coordinate between different stakeholders and systems within the organization
  • Give employees the support they need to do their part in the initiative, thus minimizing resistance

Listening

Actively listening to employees and other participants in the change process is an equally important skill, and should complement your efforts in communicating with everyone involved. In addition to hearing what others have to say, a change manager must also be sensitive to non-verbal communication, such as signs of emotional stress or resistance, that even the person in question might not be aware of. Being able to listen with all the senses helps to:

  • Gather quality feedback from stakeholders at every level, allowing practitioners to adjust their approach during the change process
  • Give employees some ‘skin in the game’ by allowing them to be invested and actively involved in the process of change
  • Interpret non-verbal cues like eye contact or body language that could indicate that an employee is in distress

Leadership

Change management is all about managing the people-side of change, which involves having good interpersonal and leadership skills. Employees need a leader they can look up to, especially in times of uncertainty. A good leader is:

  • A role model for the rest of the organization to follow, modeling the desired changes from day one
  • A stabilizing factor in times of change
  • A proper space for members of the organization to discuss their thoughts and feelings about the change process
  • Able to connect and engage with people about their expertise, emotions, and thoughts throughout the change process
  • Willing to be flexible when unexpected developments come up during the change initiative 

Strategic Planning

Strategic planning is a skill that enables you to formulate a change management plan. It means translating a compelling vision of where you want to go or what you want to achieve into a concrete and clear roadmap for everyone to follow. This can include:

  • Developing a mission-vision that will strategically benefit the organization and display a desirable future for all stakeholders
  • Analyzing the gap between the organization's status quo and the desired future state
  • Constructing a program or project management plan
  • Formulating progressive milestones and reliable reporting metrics that generate easy wins
  • Outlining the responsibilities of each employee
  • Creating a change architecture visualizing all aspects of the change

Research

Knowing how to turn the knowledge and experience of others into relevant information and take advantage of readily available information is another invaluable skill for the change practitioner. Doing the proper due diligence allows you to:

  • Determine which change management methodology is most appropriate for your planned initiatives
  • Learn from the prior experiences and results of similar projects
  • Develop a realistic strategy for your change initiative through a solid understanding of all available and relevant data
  • Set key performance indicators that will allow you to analyze the results of the change process

Conclusion

The responsibilities of today’s change manager can seem daunting. Acquiring and honing these skills involves time, research, and real-world experience. Luckily, the demand for specialized change managers and the formalization of the Change Management discipline means that opportunities for learning are more accessible than ever. Organizations like the Change Institute are working to streamline change management training and education, combining the latest knowledge and resources from experienced change practitioners and academia to provide you with a broad skill set that will allow you to manage the entire process of organizational change.

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