The power middle-managers’ have to navigate change

The Power Middle-managers’ Have to Navigate Change

In Uncategorized by Roger Lewis

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Over the past 20 months, it’s become clear why change management is one of the most essential leadership skills. Knowing how to lead and manage through tumultuous and unexpected changes can make or break a company. While the pandemic was an unexpected event that affected everyone, knowing how to manage change is also about traditional and routine events in the everyday business world. 

Mergers and acquisitions happen all the time. If a business and its leaders are not prepared to effectively manage through these major events, it can lead to low morale among employees and poor customer experience. 

Change management needs to happen at all levels of an organisation. As Harvard Business states, “In today’s uncertain climate, leaders at all levels in the organisation are involved in managing change. While senior executives set the organisational tone, those in middle management, leaders on the frontlines, and team leaders also play critical roles.”

Change, expected or unexpected, has left companies out of business - and made others come out stronger. Think about Kodak, Atari, Blockbuster, Netscape, and Nokia - all favourite brands with significant success stories until they doubled down on outdated business practices. “That’s the way we’ve always done it” doesn’t allow businesses to reinvent themselves to meet the market where it is, or where it’s going. Because of this, change management is a skill regularly discussed in business schools and within corporations. 

But in the healthcare industry, change management takes on a whole new spin. Leaders, in many cases, are the physicians and doctors on the frontline dealing with both their staff and patients. Though medical school teaches physicians about the many facets of practicing medicine, it is mostly absent on business leadership training, specifically, leading and managing change within an organisation.  

It certainly raises the question: Why isn’t the education of business acumen, organisation and development skills, like change management, prioritised for physicians, when their daily leadership has such a direct effect on both employee and patient experience? 

Take the example of a merger: if one healthcare practice merges with another, and some of the physicians are wary about it – and aren’t trained in leadership or change management – their staff and patients will notice that they’re discouraged or upset. Employees in both organisations may be asked to make sacrifices of various gravity, from new operational workflows to budget cuts. It’s moments like this where effective change management by leaders is critical. Otherwise, you sacrifice employee engagement or patient experience. 

As fellow business leaders and industry professionals, we need to be empathetic and encouraging to our physician colleagues during times of change. We need to help physicians understand their roles as leaders within their organisations. Because of their education, knowledge, and experience, they will inherently be seen as leaders in the community and at their workplace. Helping them understand their positions of authority and arming them with tools, training, and support will result in organisations that can withstand and prevail through times of change.

Here are three things leaders can do to facilitate change management during mergers, acquisitions, or unexpected events, such as the pandemic. 

1. Recognise you’re going through change.

Sounds simple, but many times, the self-awareness of what is going on around you can be challenging to recognise. Talk with front-line management and look out for communications from the leadership team to understand the why and how of the event. Then, spend time figuring out the best way to communicate and help your team with the change. 

2. Communicate accurately about the change. 

Leaders and managers need to be aware of how they’re talking about a particular change. Make sure the greater team understands what’s going on, and how their actions and discussions influence their staff and patients. Share the anticipated changes and how they can work with the leaders (physicians) to move effectively through the change positively. Describe to your teams how to reinforce the messaging to patients and vendors, even how to do it informally. 

3. Lead with introspection.

The best leaders are very self-aware and lead with introspection, not authority. Navigating change isn’t easy, and those who lead through it best are people who understand their power and use it to help others feel safe. Physicians often aren’t aware of their innate, implied authority; thus, the leadership aspect of change management and leading with introspection is important. 

Being skilled at change management is something all leaders and organisations need to take seriously and prioritise. With regular mergers, acquisitions, and other organisational changes, it is a standard part of the business world. The more prepared your leaders are to lead through change, the better the experiences your employees, customers, and patients will have.

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