By Ben Hershey, CEO, The 4Ward Group of Companies
Ask yourself this question, true or false: The most resistant group of employees in many component and LBM companies is the frontline employees? If you answered true, like most people you guessed incorrectly. It’s not our frontline employees who resist change the most, it’s the managers, the ones who are expected to lead employees through change. And sometimes, the higher level the manager, the more resistant they are to change.
This fact should not surprise us, because managers and supervisors are often overlooked and not involved as much as they should be in the change process. As change management plans are developed and implemented, there’s a natural tendency to focus on the employees directly affected by the change, the ones who have to do something different. Because of their title and position, managers and supervisors are presumed to be on board and able to manage the change. This is problematic because, until recently, change leadership and change management skills have not been a prerequisite for management positions, nor has formal training been provided through traditional “Management 101” training channels. But especially now as our industry continues to evolve, we need our managers to be equipped with the tools for change, so they can be more proactive and more focused on change management in our companies.
Two remedies are needed. First, managers are employees too and need to be helped through their own change transition. And second, managers need to be given the knowledge and tools to help them lead their employees through change. Ignoring the needs of managers complicates and compounds change resistance, which results in frustrated employees, delays, added cost, and missed returns. When manager resistance surfaces, adding to resistance from frontline employees, the result is disappointed stakeholders and sponsors of the change initiative. Positioning managers to successfully lead change isn’t complicated. But you need to know what to do and what not to do. Here are five do’s and don’ts for preparing managers and supervisors:
- Do: Involve managers and frontline employees during the design and development phase of the initiative. Both roles will need to deal with the solution, whether performing it or knowing how to perform it. Plus, they need to understand how it relates to other business policies, practices, systems, and structures. Giving them a voice in the solution also promotes buy-in and ownership.
Don’t: Assume managers don’t have time to participate because of their current duties or that training them later will suffice.
- Do: Train managers on how to lead change effectively. Equip them with tools and provide ongoing coaching. Managing day-to-day business activities and leading employees through change have many parallels and touch points. However, the change manager role leans more heavily toward helping employees adopt, use, and become proficient with something new. This requires a different skill set than daily business management.
Don’t: Assume managers know how to lead employees through change because of title, position, or tenure. In unique cases, there are managers who have the natural knack of leading people, but for most people this is a skill that needs to be learned and fostered.
- Do: Incorporate change leadership duties as part of a manager’s daily role and responsibilities long before any major change is introduced. This will allow managers to have time to practice and get accustomed to change methodologies and tools.
Don’t: Wait to pile on change management responsibilities when change is introduced. This will inevitably be negatively perceived as added work and quite often generate unneeded additional resistance.
- Do: Ensure managers are afforded time to internalize the change before introducing the change to all employees. In addition to having the knowledge and tools for leading change, managers must be allowed time to understand the change itself and its impact on their role and employees duties. They, too, need to adopt and adapt to the change.
Don’t: Announce change at the same time for everyone. When this happens, managers are caught off-guard and will be unprepared to address questions and concerns from their employees. It places them at a considerable disadvantage in demonstrating support and managing resistance.
- Do: Evaluate how the change aligns with business objectives and goals as it is being designed and developed. If found to be unaligned, adjustments need to be made to bring it into alignment. Managers and supervisors are expected to work towards achieving business objectives on a daily basis. In all practical sense, it is why the position exists. When the change is aligned with organizational outcomes and expectations, managers have a much better chance of instilling the change.
Don’t: Introduce change that competes, contradicts, or is simply unsupportive. Unaligned change places managers in a conflicting and difficult position. More often than not, the change will drop to the bottom of the priority list while manager and employee focus will remain on achieving business outcomes.
If there is one takeaway from this article it’s this: Managers are Employees Too. Our team spends a lot of time training and coaching managers in many of the tools discussed above to equip them for change. Preparing these managers for change before leading others will give them the skills they need to successfully lead their teams through the transition. If you want to equip your mangers with some of these tools and need some additional help, give us a call—we would be glad to help you as we have helped hundreds of customers in our industry.
Best Practice Tip
After a long time in development, SBCA will be rolling out our Digital QC Prototype platform for limited use this year. This is a very exciting upgrade to what the component industry has been using for several years, and it will take us to an entirely new level of expertise. Consider this in your strive to be lean: how about QC taking 1/10th the time as it does today? By eliminating manual measuring and other human-prone errors, you can achieve a better system for providing quality control information to all stakeholders throughout the industry. As the program rolls out, make sure you step you and get on board. If you’ll be new to the SBCA QC Program, sign up now and let SBCA staff know that the team at 4Ward Consulting referred you! This program has provided numerous benefits to companies throughout the industry, and it is only getting better.
Ben Hershey is CEO of the 4Ward Group of Companies including Consulting Solutions, Labor Solutions, Offsite Solutions, Design Solutions, and Accounting Solutions. When the industry needs an actual expert, they turn to 4Ward team with more than 150 years of combined experience. 4Ward Consulting Group isthe leading provider of Management and Manufacturing Consulting to the Structural Component and Lumber Industry. A Past President of SBCA, Ben has owned and managed several manufacturing and distribution companies and is Six Sigma Black Belt Certified. Ben has provided consulting to hundreds of Component Manufacturers, Lumber Dealers, and Millwork Operations in the past seven years. You can reach Ben at ben@4WardConsult.com or 623-512-6770.
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