Managers Leading Change
Being a manager in the 21st century implies addressing numerous issues that constantly arise in an organization. Moreover, change management tasks have evolved into a vital part of the company’s everyday activity. It is hard to find a company that does not need to adapt to a rapidly changing business landscape. Few firms can afford the luxury of avoiding huge costs and risks, which may occur due to any alterations. The challenges that change managers face are complex and require specific competencies. That is why managers leading a change tend to make several typical mistakes, which should be described in detail and analyzed. Modern managers leading a change should be able to lead the team forward by making the transition’s objectives clear and luring for all its members.
Changes in a company may lead to unexpected results, and it may be hard for the employees to realize all the benefits of the transition. Their first reaction to changes is, in most cases, extremely cautious, as the outcome may directly harm them. That is where managers step in to accelerate the process. Williams (2020) explains that managing organizational change is a basic process of unfreezing, change intervention, and refreezing. Unfreezing is getting the people affected by change to believe that change is needed (p. 122). Performing changes in a company is an increasingly complicated task, and managers’ main objective is to finish the process smoothly. Working with the employees and creating a proper comforting atmosphere in the organization is of vital importance.
Leading a change in an organization can be tough on different levels. First, it is worth mentioning that not all organizational change managers have the emotional resilience needed to perform well. A manager leading a change has to be passionate about the whole undertaking and stay convincing while communicating with subordinates. Not all people who are in charge of a major change have a managerial background. For instance, “public sector agencies generally promote individuals because of their excellent performance and expertise as individual contributors, rather than considering their potential as managers” (Park & Faerman, 2019, p. 98). The managerial transition can become a serious issue in its own right. Despite being a professional, a person may lack managerial skills, which will lead to his/her inability to create a strong team.
The Competencies Needed
There are numerous qualities commonly attributed to a good manager. Some of them have proven to be especially important, such as “the ability to coach, motivate, reward, communicate, lead change, involve employees in decision making, encourage employees’ growth and development, and treat employees fairly” (Gilley et al., 2010, p. 31). Building effective teams are impossible without showing compassion for co-workers. The manager leading the change should understand his responsibility for the whole transition results.
A change manager should not only find the reasoning behind the changes but get ready to be passionate about them and motivate their co-workers to perform the transition sustainably. An effective change manager has to understand colleagues’ approaches to various issues and to come up with the most appropriate means to motivate the employees. Thus, “more than half of all change efforts fail because the people affected are not convinced that change is necessary” (Williams et al., 2020, p. 124). The manager’s ability to clarify the necessity of the changes and willingness to turn the transition into an engaging process are the key tools in change management.
Modern managers should not only create teams; they must distinctly manifest that they are leading groups. Leading the team means sharing the responsibility, participating in discussions, and supporting co-workers. Understanding co-workers’ choices, even if they turn out to be wrong, is a crucial feature of a manager as a leader. Therefore, “although mistakes often result in negative outcomes, they can also provide the impetus to create significant change and to foster individual and system-level learning” (Bligh et al., 2018, p. 118). One of the sources of innovations is analyzing the mistakes and developing new strategies that will prevent making similar mistakes. In various spheres, such as IT, finding errors has even become a separate lucrative type of activity. Therefore, the change manager should focus on finding all the possible problems in advance and sometimes perceive his/her colleagues’ mistakes as extra help.
A manager is a worker who is expected to interact with other employees in a way that can encourage them, stay motivated and be disciplined. Such a person should not only be smart but have a certain type of soft skills that can provide emotional support for employees. Emotional intelligence is a vital characteristic of a successful manager. It is especially important for employees when a company undergoes crucial changes, as workers are exposed to more pressure than they are used to. Prati and Karriker (2018) claim that emotionally intelligent managers have more resources from which they may draw to provide instructional and emotional support for employees (p. 104). Emotional intelligence is a necessary feature of good service, as the mutual understanding between employees directly influences the quality of the service an employee provides, especially on an emotional level. Thus, a manager leading a change has to possess a certain degree of emotional intelligence, which is in charge of achieving the right connection between the manager and the employee and, consequently, between the worker and the customer.
Changing the Vision
Managers generally face some difficulties, as they may not be authorized to implement some of the alterations they find appropriate. Invisible barriers set up by senior managers represent one of the main obstacles. Moreover, giving excess power to middle managers may result in various conflicts, even if such managers are openly promoted. That is why “failure is more likely to be connected to collective emotional and political dynamics” (Neumann et al., 2019, p. 116). In many cases, emotional aspects of the issue and political dynamics are essential to understanding the results of change management strategies.
The economy has changed significantly, and employees’ ability to be creative, be responsible, and take action is praised like never before. Thus, managers should develop a completely different approach to employees. There is too much bureaucracy in the relationship between managers and employees. According to Strategic Direction, managers have contributed to the poor image of management through aggressive and intimidating management styles (“Putting the leadership…”, 2010, p. 10). Many companies that retain the old-fashioned management methods currently find themselves in a difficult position, as the distance between a boss and an employee has increased dramatically. Millennials and younger generations have certain expectations when they enter the job market. These young people tend to perform much better in an atmosphere that guarantees them a perfect balance of freedom and responsibility.
Inspiring employees is now rivaling controlling them as one of the main tasks of a change manager. That is why people capable of caring for others and taking risks may have already become a common type of successful manager. Ex-military managers and women often turn out to be modern high-performing managers. The experts of Strategic Direction point out that managers who can make their employees feel valued provide them with an intrinsic motivation for coming to work every day (“Putting the leadership…”, 2010, p. 11). Being part of a team and radiating optimism about future common success now works better than pure hierarchy.
Managers leading change should understand that promoting the changes themselves within the company is less productive than explaining the objectives of such changes. Employees of the company think rationally and would not accept any innovation unless it is explained to them how the innovation can improve their salary, attitude to them, or other aspects of their job. Sometimes managers may be too concentrated on their own goals and their career, forgetting about the people around them who help them to climb the career ladder. Therefore, “transformational leadership behaviors create conditions in which followers are more likely to commit to a change by painting a positive vision for the future (beyond the vision for the specific change)” (Hill et al., 2012, p. 761). Modern change managers should set an example and lead people, despite their employees’ fear of the unknown.
Senior managers in most companies still tend to communicate only within their small circle, excluding numerous employees who may be willing to contribute. In such companies “more distant employees have less of an opportunity to interact with senior leadership and thus to understand the vision and benefits of the change” (Hill et al., 2012, p. 761). Modern companies have to address numerous issues by examining all the information on the problem and finding the best solution. Ignoring various visions and other workers’ experiences leads to misunderstanding. Arrogance or unwillingness to communicate with people who occupy completely different positions may result in poor final results of the change.
Managers leading changes should represent a unique group of modern leaders, who have made a long journey from excess bureaucracy and hierarchical distance to taking risks and leading colleagues by supporting and inspiring them. Most of the problems managers in charge of changes face are strongly connected to a barrier that halts the exchange of ideas and opinions. The main objective of a successful manager leading change is to find a creative way to lift this barrier and to bring sustainability after all the changes are performed.
Bligh, M. C., Kohles, J. C., & Yan, Q. (2018). Leading and learning to change: The role of leadership style and mindset in error learning and organizational change. Journal of Change Management, 18(2), 116–141.
Putting the leadership back into management: Helping managers to lead and leaders to manage. (2010). Strategic Direction, 26(9), 10–12.
Gilley, A., Gilley, J. W., McConnell, C. W., & Veliquette, A. (2010). The competencies used by effective managers to build teams: An empirical study. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 12(1), 29–45.
Hill, N. S., Seo, M. G., Kang, J. H., & Taylor, M. S. (2012). Building employee commitment to change across organizational levels: The influence of hierarchical distance and direct managers’ transformational leadership. Organization Science, 23(3), 758–777.
Neumann, J. E., James, K. T., & Vince, R. (2019). Key tensions in purposive action by middle managers leading change. Research in Organizational Change and Development, 27, 111–142.
Park, H. H., & Faerman, S. (2019). Becoming a manager: Learning the importance of emotional and social competence in managerial transitions. The American Review of Public Administration, 49(1), 98–115. of Management Development 37(1), 101–110.
Williams, C., McWilliams, A., Lawrence, R. & Waneduzzaman, W. (2020). MGMT4 (4th ed.). Cengage Learning Australia.