NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Change swept the country on Tuesday as Republicans took control of the House and many governorships and state legislatures turned red as well. To advocates, change feels like a Renaissance; to opponents, oppression. The potential for gridlock lurks as a distinct obstacle to progress.
Fortunately for business leaders, corporations are not democracies that require a majority vote to enact policy. But running a fractious firm is unproductive, exhausting, and a tremendous waste of time and resources. Incorporating strategies to usher in change with as few ripples as possible can make the difference between progress and paralysis.
Plan for change:
The best plans are well-researched ones. Politicians regularly seek the opinions of constituents from all backgrounds before committing to issues, but CEOs tend to consult upper level management -- and stop there. In meeting with senior employees alone, leaders often miss golden opportunities for needed and often easily executed adjustments.
Employees represent firms on the front lines and are immediately affected by broad changes in policy. These employees are often in unique positions to gather instantaneous feedback and thus point out problems that might otherwise take weeks to trickle up to the corner offices. Before implementing a new policy, brainstorming with a few long-standing employees from key divisions in the firm can reveal possibilities for effective change that management may have overlooked.
Assimilate a variety of insights across levels and divisions to create a vibrant three-dimensional picture of your company. Not only does the broader perspective help plan for the future, but also the simple act of seeking input lets employees know they are valued. They will feel like part of the change, rather than victims of it.
Sell the change:
Voters go to the polls hoping to effect a change that benefits them, and employees are no different. When faced with new policy, employees consider their individual situations first and foremost, and their perception of how the change will affect them shapes their attitudes.
Thus, employees' self-interest should be given top billing. While carefully avoiding disingenuous sales tactics, confront the issue head on and provide employees with enough information -- both pros and cons -- so they understand the rationale behind the decision and its intended effects.
This election has proven that talk is "out" and results are "in." So with "visions" passé and problem solving in vogue, business owners can craft speeches that appeal to this new mindset. Tangible results trump intangible dreams, so inspire employees with plans, instead of words and ideas they could get in a self-help seminar. A firm roadmap for action will rally the troops and ultimately form the best "campaign strategy" in business or politics.
Execute the change:
Over promising and under delivering frustrates voters and employees alike. Thus, work with key management to ensure the implementation of change is as close to the "advertised" plan as possible.
Because successful execution inevitably requires employees' cooperation, transitions to performing new duties or complying with new systems should include a reasonable, albeit short, adjustment period. Instead of expecting employees to support new policy tacitly, employers can provide a forum for employees to vent frustrations, voice concerns and offer feedback. If such talk occurs openly -- rather than behind management's back -- executives have a much greater chance of extinguishing flash fires before they become forest fires that could negatively impact morale and performance.
Listening earnestly to employees is crucial, as what may initially seem like a petty gripe could in fact be valuable insight into why a change is not working. Moreover, leaders can not be hesitant about altering the course of action. While "flip-flopping" can be the kiss of death politically, it may be the right move in business, translating to dollars saved and problems averted.
Right or wrong, change can feel unjust to those who oppose it. Because change incites feelings of hope and fear, impotence and power, it will be met with resistance just as often as it is accepted with confidence. As America begins the month with a new balance of power, opportunities for embracing, rejecting or learning from change will color the political landscape for the next few years. In business, too, the outcome of new policies and new directions depends a great deal on the integration of rhetoric and reality to ensure that change is a Renaissance and not a regression.