When discussing change management there are usually two approaches: the one that covers change strategy and it is aimed mainly at executives and the one that describes how change affects the employees at individual level.
Very rarely literature and change professionals talk about what’s in the middle: how change affects teams and how change leaders / line managers / departmental heads can successfully deal with it.
Team leaders / line managers face probably the hardest task:
- they have to support and manage their team through change;
- they have to carry on delivering the day to day activities and at the same time deliver change;
- they often have to manage change without having had any (or having had little) training on the subject.
It is a peculiar situation as the team may be composed by 2 individuals or by 100 employees and it is not a job for the faint of heart.
I find it surprising that team leaders / line managers are rarely supported in managing change and their team in such disruptive times.
In addition to these elements, we have to consider that very rarely (basically never!) the organisations in which teams are working are perfect. It would be great if all the change initiatives had a super committed sponsor, if the HR team was supporting the team leader in a proactive way, if the strategy and action plan was very well laid out. I am not describing a dysfunctional organization, but the most common one. Everyone in the organization is trying to do their best, there are politics involved, resources are scarce, market pressures are consistently growing and the team leaders / line managers have to deliver.
Team leaders / line managers also face a peculiar situation. On one side they lead a team of employees and may share with their view on a change initiative. At the same time they are part of the management team and they have to be seen as playing ball. At times (et’s think about redundancies) these positions may be misaligned and lead to a lot of personal conflict. The best course of action is to balance those conflicting options, but in some instances it is not as easy as it sounds.
We have to add another element to the picture. Team leaders / line managers very rarely are in the position to pick and choose who is going to be part of their team. It is not unusual to “inherit” a group of people from the previous manager or to have to put together a team with the individuals currently available in the organization.
Some may have the ideal skills, experience, motivation and attitude whilst other may go to work just for the pay check at the end of the month. There are limits in terms of headcount and budgets (in addition to employment law) that prevent the team leader / line manager to create his/her dream team.
Now you can understand why I want to shed some light on the challenges that team leaders/line managers face when a change initiative is implemented in the organization. They don’t have that much of an input in the company strategy, they have to support their team through change very often without suitable skills and at the same time they have to support themselves whilst facing change, having to deliver its objectives in addition to the day to day activities and very often with the same amount on resources.
This is the reality of being squeezed in the middle. It is time for organization to equip its line managers / team leaders with suitable skills and capabilities to manage change successfully and to take into consideration the peculiar challenges they face when going through change.
Question: how does your organisation equip team leaders/line managers to manage change? Write your comment below.