Catalytic Management Consulting
Accelerating Growth, Driving Performance

Fostering Leadership to Drive Change

The factors driving large scale change initiatives are often best understood by senior management. Senior management sees the need or opportunity for change and makes the decision to move forward. Their focus is on securing the buy in from middle management and more likely than not, any training or serious support is given to this middle management level. But it is the Front Line manager that is actually responsible for implementing the change and this critical group is often overlooked. Why, because of the mistaken belief that your middle managers are the decision makers and problem solvers and thus should receive the lions share of change support. WRONG! More effort should be given to preparing and equipping your Front Line managers with the tools and knowledge they need to execute effectively – their failure ensures the change effort will fail.

Preparing the Front Line managers to handle resistance, to effectively communicate the reasons for and benefits from change and to effectively implement new processes are all necessary skills. In short, they need the same skills, knowledge and tools as the middle managers in order to really drive and sustain change.

Front Line managers must know how to lead and not just lead in the good times. They need to lead when resistance is high, when even they may not believe in the change. Providing training in leadership is essential. Don’t assume that they have learned how to effectively lead from your middle managers – osmosis is not a great strategy. Front Line managers must be truly adept at leading their teams through the transitions of change and to the new behaviors desired.

Your Front Line managers make decisions every day. But when change is rolled out, their foundation for making decisions may be shaken. The criteria for making sound decisions will be different as the result of change goals. Providing education in the decision making process and then customizing that knowledge to include new criteria is vital. Change takes place every day in the seemingly small decisions your team makes about how to implement the change. The better their education the better the decision.

Resistance to change is inevitable. That resistance can be especially strong among the employees most affected by the change and this is often the front line team. What they do and how they do it is going to change and despite the best laid change plans, your Front Line managers will have to deal with all levels of resistance from open warfare to covert activity that will derail success. To insure the Front Line manager is prepared to cope with this push back, they need training in coaching employees. Coaching and managing are different. Great managers are not necessarily great coaches.

Managing is all about directing people while coaching is about developing people. Managing is focused on telling while coaching is focused on getting the employee to see the need or next step on their own, it’s about working independently.

Telling employees that are resistant to the change that they have to do something a new way is never effective. OK, maybe in the very short term, but employees will relapse quickly – they will return to what is comfortable and that means avoiding the new and doing the old. Of all the skills necessary for successful change, effective coaching may just be the most important. Coaching the team through the change transitions is where the real work takes place –where the real change happens. Front Line managers must be good coaches if the change initiative is to be successful and sustainable.

Don’t ignore the very critical role your Front Line managers play in driving and sustaining change. Give them the same or more support, education, training and knowledge you give to middle management. Give them the skills to lead, to make the right decisions based on new criteria, to think strategically and to coach their front line teams to embrace, support and implement change.

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