Prevent the Top Three Mistakes Managers Make in Times of Change

Blog Post created by suz.odonnell Advocate on Feb 9, 2016

We are always in a time of change.  Every person and company should have goals, and in order to achieve those goals something must change.  Managers are key to implementing successful change in an organization.  Yes, we need top down messages and inspiration from senior executives.  Yes, we need organizational development staff and advisors on the ground supporting changes in process, technology, and people. 

Most of all, we need strong managers who support the company and their employees in achieving new goals.  They are the leaders the individuals work with on a regular basis, trust, and emulate.  They are the most in tune with how changes affect their team both on a day to day work level and on a personal/career level.  ...and likely the most in tune with how changes for employees will affect your customers. 

Yet, not all managers know what to do during times of change.  Here are the top three mistakes I find managers make that can massively impact overall success of their organization's goal attainment, leave their employees struggling, and put their career at risk.

#3) Getting on-board too quickly:

Does this sound counter-intuitive?  Every company wants their managers to raise their hands and actively support goals established by senior leadership. However, if they blindly follow without all the information they need, they could be doing leadership, their employees and themselves a dis-service. 

In good companies, managers trust their leadership and also ask clarifying questions.  They are supportive of company goals and find out more about what the change will mean to themselves and their employees.  They also speak up and make suggestions that help senior leaders know if plans should be adjusted in order for the program to be effective.  The more information managers have when they go back to their employees, the more likely the employees will be to maintain their trust in their manager and support the upcoming changes. 

#2) Taking too long to get on board:

While managers need to be sure they have proper information to understand the change and share pertinent information with their employees, they need to recognize that change happens in phases.  They may not have all the details about every activity that will happen at every hour right away, but if the ship seems to be sailing in the right direction overall, it makes sense to get on-board and stay actively involved in both supporting the change and influencing how it affects their employees. 

#1) Pretending they are on board:

This is the worst thing a manager can do during times of change.  For senior leadership and the organizational change team, it's easy for them to support managers who are on board and actively involved in advancing toward the company goal.  They can also support people who are taking a while to get on board because they are more apparent in their concern. 

The #1 factor in undermining company success and that of an individual team is a manager who acts like they are on board, but really are not.  This type of manager may nod in agreement or just stay quiet in management meetings, but when they go back to their desk, they are either finding ways around the change or influencing their team to disagree or both. 

Not only does this undermine the success of the company's change, but it's doing a huge disservice to that manager's employees, and in most companies, this type of manager will eventually be let go. 

The boat is still headed in the direction the company plans and unless those managers speak up as to why they do not agree, their employees will be left floundering and their whole team may drown at implementation time.  The company will find another way to do the activities without that team (and they may be dissipated) or they will be completely unprepared at the time of change and be totally overwhelmed at implementation time.  This puts the entire initiative and the company's customer relationships at risk, as there's a ripple effect when team dependencies are not met. 


The best thing managers can do (and organizational change teams should encourage) is to find out as much as they can at each stage of the change, continuously ask clarifying questions to fully understand what is expected of them, their employees, and their other stakeholders, and be actively involved both up and down the ladder - stay actively engaged with their own manager, and continuously support their employees, customers, and peers. 

This type of manager will be acknowledged by senior leadership, trusted by their employees, and noticed by their peers.  The more of these managers you develop in your organization, the higher the likelihood of success for your overall goal. 

To optimize performance in times of change (or what we simply call achieving your business goals), schedule a 30 minute strategy session with me by clicking here


Suz O’Donnell is an business advisor, keynote speaker, and author who helps individuals and teams drive successful change.  She has led major change initiatives at several Fortune 100 companies and worked with many others ranging from Fortune 500 to small start ups. 

Copyright ©2016 Suz O’Donnell and Thrivatize LLC