4.3.15 Issue #682 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Jonathan Gale, Ph.D.
Leadership Coach
McKenzie Management
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Managing Change for Leaders
By Jonathan Gale, Ph.D.

There are a few certainties in life, and many uncertainties. One of the most certain things to know is that life is chronically uncertain. Change happens to us all, all the time, causing us to adapt, learn new skills, brace ourselves, or run for the hills. As a leader in the dental industry, your role is likely going to involve seeing the change coming, getting in front of it, and managing it so your practice stays afloat. This includes keeping the repercussions of change to your practice and your staff as minimal as possible.

Managing change refers to the process of moving from your current state to a desired state, whether this is to achieve a greater market share, a more streamlined practice, or improved patient satisfaction. To successfully manage change, it is necessary to utilize processes, tools and techniques to engage your people to help make the change happen.

Here is a 3-step guide to effectively managing change. As you read through it, think about what changes you have experienced, how you handled them, and how you might approach changes like these differently going forward.

Step 1: Lead the Change
Leading the change will place you in the driver’s seat, so you are maneuvering through change rather than being maneuvered by the change. Your practice will become a flexible and successful entity with you at the helm.

First, you need to translate the need for change into a ‘story’ that makes sense to your staff, portraying you as the leader and your practice as future-thinking and ahead of the curve. You need to include the threats and dangers associated with not changing, including the reasons for change, and emphasize your commitment to getting everyone to the desired goal together, as a team. In this ‘story’ you are setting the vision for the desired state and creating the necessary sense of urgency so your staff understands the need to change, and change now.

Next, you will need to identify “change ambassadors.” These are individuals in your practice who are positive and engaged, and who would be effective at role modeling optimism in the face of change, rather than fear, which is what most people will feel initially when confronted with change. These ambassadors are going to be your “ground troops” and will do the bulk of the heavy lifting when it comes to implementing new processes. Without these ambassadors, you will be in a very lengthy and difficult struggle to get things moving.

Also important in this step is to normalize the non-linear nature of the change process. It is important for everyone to understand that two steps forward and one step back is normal and expected. Further, oftentimes the target moves as we progress, so we must adjust on the fly and not be discouraged.

Step 2: Communicate Throughout the Change Process
First and foremost, communication must happen via several channels. It is not sufficient to only email or communicate with the office manager and hope he or she relays the message accurately to everyone else. As the leader, your job is to communicate and then follow-up to make sure the message has been heard by everyone. Then you can field questions and uncertainties, or recruit your change ambassadors to help in this regard, to prevent fear from spreading or rumor milling. It is also important to be cognizant of the different generations in the workplace and their preferred mode of giving and receiving communication.

One thing all people need when navigating change and moving into unfamiliar territory is encouragement. Make sure to communicate the small wins and let your people know how they’ve already made some important or measurable contributions. This will encourage them to keep moving in spite of fatigue or doubt.

Communicate timely and frequently. Creating buy-in doesn’t just happen at the onset of a change management process. Buy-in requires continual updates and open lines of communication to help keep trust and faith in your judgment alive and well. These elements will keep your team together through the process and arriving at the goal feeling very positive, despite the hard work that it took.

Step 3: Implement the Change
When rolling out a new process or technology, be mindful of the timing. For best results, aim for a time that you have identified as naturally less stressful or demanding than other times. If you are not sure, ask your staff about their experiences with the work flow.

Allow adequate time for the change to become the new norm. Prepare yourself and your staff for setbacks, frustrations, or unexpected nuances that require adjustments. If the expectation is that the journey through change will be long and rocky, you will see much less disappointment when inevitable obstacles appear. If you or your staff take on extra duties to try and force the change to work, you will see unnecessary burnout. Expect things to move slower than you might anticipate.

Finally, put a system in place to monitor the change to determine if your new state matches the intended goal state. If so, great! Revisit it in a few weeks to make sure the change is sustained and look to see if there are any new issues to address. If the goal state has not been achieved, loop back systematically to determine why and then resume the change effort from that point.

If you need assistance with this process, remember, help is not far, and you are not alone. Good luck!

Dr. Gale provides coaching and training to enhance leadership skills, interpersonal communications and team building. If you would like to learn more, contact him at jgalephd@mckenziemgmt.com

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