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Effective Change Management

Change is integral to everything we experience in life. In local government, you can practically set your calendar for change. Even if there are no other changes planned, such as in technology, staffing, processes or policies (which would be odd), local governments can predict that there will likely be strategy and policy changes every four years. Change is therefore anticipated and experienced regularly, but most organizations still say they struggle with implementing change effectively.

I find it odd that when we are young, change is exciting – something we look forward to and embrace enthusiastically. As we get older, many of us start to resist change or even become fearful. When change is something we dread, we also tend to look for ways to avoid it at all costs. This shift from embracing change to avoiding it is apparently linked to our natural instincts when we feel threatened. I guess we feel more easily threatened as we get older.

It was interesting to learn more about the neuroscience behind how our brains react to change. As a communications professional, I know the importance of targeting messages to audience needs. By understanding the information needs of different individuals based on their reaction to the change, managers can improve how they motivate people and shift their attitude to be more accepting of the changes underway. In the feature story for this edition of Exchange, Leading Through Change, we learn about how people react differently to changes, options for how to communicate with them effectively, and the tactics and processes that leaders can follow to help employees adjust to change.

In the second article, Managing Employees: Back to Basics, experts share ideas on how to address the challenges that stem from dealing with difficult employees. As the article evolved, lyrics from Eric Clapton’s song kept running through my head: “Before you accuse me, take a look at yourself.” Essentially, managers may find that they could have prevented difficult employee scenarios before they become serious issues. I learned this lesson myself back in the day when I was responsible for staff in my division. I was always so caught up with all my daily tasks, I neglected to do my job as a manager in terms of setting aside enough time every week to support my staff, listen to their concerns and acknowledge their contributions. I received some great coaching on how to be a better manager, and I believe my entire team’s performance improved when I was more responsive and tuned in to what they needed to be successful.

At the same time, there are situations when a manager needs to address behaviours that are disruptive or undermining the success of the organization. That’s not a job anyone wants to tackle, but in this edition, experts share advice on the steps managers should follow that help guide them through dealing with difficult employees. As well, in Tips and Tactics, there is expert advice on what to consider in terms of employee and employer rights and responsibilities.

Overall, as this edition evolved, it became clear that leading a group of people, whether through change or as part of ongoing management responsibilities, involves dedicating time and attention to individuals based on their needs and communicating regularly and effectively. The organization’s success lies with the employees who work each day to deliver services, operate programs and provide administrative support. Creating a culture where managers understand the importance of “managing” in the context of supporting staff who work for them is essential to improving performance and facilitating change

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