As the adage goes, the only constant in life is change. The past few years have demonstrated how quickly and forcefully change can arrive — and how great of a toll it can take on the workplace. In this blog, we discuss how leaders can use change enablement to support their team in the rapidly evolving hybrid workplace environment.
Over the past few years, we have upended our daily work routines only to upend them again. Overnight, we transitioned from in-person workplaces to fully virtual environments. Gradually, some organizations transitioned into a hybrid model, but one organization’s definition of hybrid looks different from the next. At some organizations, employees work from home on certain days of the week and come into the office on others. At others, employees work from home most of the time, but report to the office once or twice per month. To best support employees in all kinds of hybrid environments, leaders must prioritize change enablement and change management.
What are Change Enablement and Change Management?
Change management is the process of planning, implementing and overseeing a transition or transformation in the workplace. Change enablement is the specific set of actions leaders take to support and empower individuals as they go through a transition, planned or not. While change management focuses on an organization’s overall approach to change and the strategy to meet it effectively. Change enablement emphasizes the specific actions that will help individuals best navigate a change.
To develop a strategy for change management and enablement, as a leader, you must be mindful of the impacts of change, both positive and negative, and develop support strategies to help individuals excel and ask for help when the going gets rough. The following three practices are the pillars of leadership, change management, and change enablement.
3 Essential Leadership Practices for Change Management and Change Enablement
Digital information is an abundant, ever-flowing stream. On the surface, it’s easy to spread a message virtually: a quick email, Slack message, or note in a group chat. But, think about the amount of virtual information you encounter daily, from Instagram and Facebook posts to news alerts. How many emails are in your inbox? How many unread texts do you have? It’s easy for one message, however essential, to become swept away within the waves of countless information channels.
Leaders can’t control the speed of the stream, but they can control how and how often they communicate with their teams. To limit the messages you write that others need to read, examine your business communication norms. Do you start your meetings — especially virtual ones — with a clear purpose? Are your key points clear and organized? Can your team easily identify next steps afterward?
You don’t need to be formal to be an effective communicator. Oprah Winfrey starts every meeting with the following three questions: What is our intention for this meeting? What’s important? What matters? By communicating directly, you encourage your team to do the same. Both you and your team will feel refreshed and motivated by clear expectations.
The boundaries between work and home have never been this blurred. To best support your employees, establish team norms that promote dependable work schedules and protect your team members’ personal time. What are the acceptable hours for work communication? Which meetings require individuals to be on camera? When is it okay for someone to log off for the day?
Additionally, keep a level playing field between in-person and remote employees. It is easier to recognize the effort of an employee when they are physically present in the office and at meetings. To acknowledge the work of remote employees, leaders need to take an extra step.
For example, go out of your way to give remote participants a voice in meetings. Pivot the conversation by asking the remote employees what they think. Effectively use the meeting chat to enhance conversations in live discussions. To support your remote employees outside of team meetings, set up an informal check-in meeting, and communicate directly: ask what they are working on at home that might go unnoticed.
At the end of the meeting, ask your employee what makes a check-in helpful, and together, determine how often to hold those meetings.
Unsupported change can turn into a challenge, then a disruption, then a difficult trial. Let people know there’s someone in their corner long before they face a challenge.
The best way to show employees you care is to ask questions and show empathy. Find out what’s happening in your team members’ lives. Celebrate their achievements, and don’t be afraid to acknowledge the challenging realities of working from home.
Additionally, encourage your team members to take breaks by modeling those boundaries yourself. If you need to take a break to recharge and de-stress, do it. Perhaps you block off fifteen minutes in your calendar each day and call it “recharge time.”
Or, maybe you just take the fifteen-minute break without announcing it. If you take a minute to yourself and tell your team it’s okay to do the same, they will feel more seen, encouraged and supported.
Finally, watch for signs of employee burnout, such as exhaustion, disengagement and isolation. If you suspect a team member is struggling, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask how they are doing. Offer to set up an informal check-in, but don’t make a camera-on one-on-one meeting mandatory. Kindness and flexibility are essential.
Conclusion: Leaders Enable Change
Leading during change takes courage, compassion and awareness. However, leaders can help their teams thrive amidst the waves by communicating, building boundaries and support networks, and most importantly by being human.