Flexibility and Adaptability: Critical Traits of Effective Managers
Business as usual was suddenly interrupted at the end of 2007 when the recession began. Drastic changes were required of all businesses if they were to survive. Costs were cut, people lost jobs, and expenses were minimized. This dramatic economic situation forced business leaders and managers to change in order to survive. Since that dramatic shift, the general public has been in a frozen limbo, afraid to move for fear of further displacement.
While the market has certainly rebounded, there still remains a dark cloud of uncertainty over the business sector and the sporadic hiring hasn’t yet erased the losses experienced in the downturn. Companies are still grappling with “the new normal,” which likely has different meanings depending on your size and industry. But with positive economic growth right around the corner, it's time for businesses to readjust once again. Effective managers and business leaders will have to develop themselves in order to progress with their companies.
Leaders are facilitators of change for organizations. They are the ones who must first define and implement the changes that will lead the business to success. Unfortunately it is sometimes difficult to find an effective manager who is eager to change, especially after surviving the deflating effects of the recession, but change is necessary for growth.
Managers who are unwilling to change have distinct characteristics that put them "at risk" for derailing their company. Frustration and skepticism at the suggestion of change signify a manager who may be resistant to change. Managers who talk of "what was" versus "what will be" are also sending warning signals that they are not comfortable with change. If a manager continues to do things the old way while still expecting to produce new results, or is uncomfortable with ambiguity and is not open to discovering new methods, they are also in the red. It is understandable that managers are cautious when considering a change, but it is essential that they embrace the idea of adaptation to thrive.
Getting effective managers back on track
There are three remedies to prevent managers from derailing and to ensure that they will continually develop. The first of these is to understand the manager's willingness to change. People generate ideas and opinions differently from one another, and these differences influence an appetite for risk and challenge. Some find change exciting and embrace it, while others find it threatening. A balance of both opinions (for and against change) is healthy for an organization. Knowing how a manager will respond to change will enable you to tailor how you communicate change. Effective communication will ensure managers develop professionally as well.
Another remedy is to help the manager understand his natural aversion to change. Many who reflexively resist change don’t do it consciously. So when you go to address it, don’t accuse him, but rather tactfully bring this issue to his attention. Once he is fully aware of his aversion he will be better equipped to develop his own way of helping himself to adapt to change. When possible, have him think through the process for you so that you can demonstrate how the change will benefit both the organization and the individual.
The third remedy is to ensure that the manager is focused on the importance and benefits of new priorities. There are many ways to communicate change, but words are not always enough. You need to translate this change into meaningful actions and goals as a manager, and then you need to inspect what you expect. Ask the manager and his people what they believe his priorities are, especially after a change event. This reveals disconnects and opportunities for realignment. Providing concrete facts will strengthen those supporting change, and will discount the manager's fears.
After the tumultuous times we’ve experienced and the uncertainty ahead, an additional tactic to consider is the necessity for blunt dialogue with managers who are holding on to the past. If they’re resisting, then you’re losing not only their potential and productivity, but also that of those whom they manage. Imagine the conversations that took place 10 years ago in companies that produced film for cameras as technology shifted to digital. Nostalgia for the way things used to be is fine, but don’t wait to embrace new ways of doing things at the expense of your business.
Change is not easy -- humans are creatures of habit. During this uprising of our economy, leaders need to be aware that more change is coming, and without it companies will suffer. Information is power, in that the more people know, the more comfortable they will feel in a new situation. It is not easy to be the leader, so when managers struggle to see the benefits, remember they are only human. With substantial information supporting change, and increased awareness of the benefits of change, leaders will be able to adapt and develop for success.
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