7.24.15 Issue #698 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Jonathan Gale, Ph.D.
Leadership Coach
McKenzie Management
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The Effects of Change on the Leader
By Jonathan Gale, Ph.D.

Change and managing change are common topics among leaders and consultants, but rarely do people pay any attention to the effects of high rates of change, or difficult to manage change (like healthcare reform) on the leaders.

One of the least mentioned effects of change relates to how it impacts the one leading the change, and his or her ability to effectively leverage the leadership role throughout the change process. Resistance, fear and performance issues are well known reactions by employees and staff to big change, but the leader is subject to the same reactions. Some types of change, such as restructuring or implementing new systems, can put considerable strain on business leaders.

Stress, Stress & More Stress
One primary concern regarding change is the stress it imposes on those undergoing the change. Leaders, because they have obligations to their staff, have to be in front of and guiding the change to minimize the negative effects on their staff and make efforts to keep staff engaged through the change process. Inevitably, leaders do share and even take on some of the concerns of their staff. In the case of implementing a new system, stress levels among staff can be extremely high, as people are being asked to step out of their comfort zones and begin the learning process all over again. As the leader, anticipating reactive behaviors or loss of confidence can disrupt concentration and the ability to stay optimistic through the change.
Stress is part of the job, but in times of change, it is critical that you as the leader recognize it may cause you to act in ways that are less effective than usual. As with anything connected to change, the long-term concerns far outweigh the short-term. If your stress level goes unchecked, it may result in a marked loss of effectiveness. This loss of effectiveness can cause a vicious cycle in which ineffective leadership results in the creation of more long-term problems, which increases your stress, causing a further decrease in your overall effectiveness, etc.

Avoidance -- A Common Response
A common response to change is to ignore the situation. Avoidance can take many forms. Most commonly, the avoidant leader plays only a minimal role in moving his or her people through the trials and tribulations of change. After announcing the change and doing the minimum required, the avoidant leader “hides” from the change, through delegation or attending to other work. This tactic involves treating things as “business as usual,” or “not my problem.”

The outcomes of this tactic can be quite negative. By relinquishing the helm and avoiding leading the team through the rough seas of change, staff become disheartened, disengaged in the process, they look for work elsewhere, or they become ineffective. Furthermore, you could lose the trust and faith of your staff, upon which you depend for the survival of your business. When a leader takes the stance, “it’s not my problem,” he or she becomes part of the problem and not the solution. It is the staff who make any change possible, and therefore they need to see the right behaviors modeled by their leader, such as accountability, responsibility and getting through together.

While avoidance serves a need for the leader in the short run, it destroys the leader’s credibility and results in poor followership. The long-term consequence of such action is that the business tends to deteriorate in terms of morale, effectiveness and productivity. Sometimes this deterioration is irreversible.

Denial -- Another Ineffective Tactic
Sometimes the leader deals with change by denying its impact. Usually, the denying leader takes a very logical approach to change. Decisions get made, systems are put in place, or new procedures are developed. Unfortunately, this “logical” approach denies the impact of change on the people who make up your practice. 

The denying leader tends to refuse to understand “what the big deal is” and shows little empathy with employees in the organization. As with avoidance, the denying tactic tends to drop the leader’s credibility and deteriorate personal loyalty on the part of employees.  

Key Points
1) Leaders are put under stress by change. If mishandled, that stress can result in loss of leadership effectiveness. Leaders need to be alert to the signs of stress upon their performance.

2) A common leadership tactic is to avoid involvement in change when that involvement is unpleasant or uncomfortable. The effects of this withdrawal can be lethal to the business and by extension, to the leader.

3) Another common tactic is denial of the effects of change. Leaders who do this tend to underestimate the impact of the change, and demonstrate an inability to respond to employees' emotional reactions to change. 

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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