- When employees are treated like robots.
- When there’s a flavor-of-the-month track record.
- When resistance to change goes underground.
- When employees don’t know how a given change affects them.
- When the change is different than the culture.
Now let’s wrap this up with a brief description of 5 more of these opportunities to jump in the ring.
Since the strength of any team is determined by its poorest performing member, most top executives that I know rely on their teams to constantly assess the general working environment and to take (or at least recommend) action when something is out of whack. Managers are responsible for steering the ship and running the business; everybody needs to watch out for and help fight against common problems that arise when the organization gets off track.
In truly exceptional organizations, like Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, MI, every member can be a change agent!
5 MORE Battles Worth Fighting
The company is depending on you to act when you see these things happen. Left unchecked, each of these situations can significantly erode performance. By no means is this a comprehensive list. If you know what to do, be constructive and do it. If you’re not sure, at least bring it to the attention of others who can address the matter.
6. When people are feeling overwhelmed. You know the look. That glazed, surrendered expression that says, “Please just leave me alone so I can do something productive and feel good about myself for a few minutes.” Pressure comes with every job but this is different. You sense that a growing, pervasive cry for help is not being voiced. So voice it! In my experience, this feeling of relentless pressure is often the result of changes in priority for the company that are not well communicated, understood, or frankly believed. When the growing stress is acknowledged, leaders can do much to soften the impact of change and to act as pressure-relief valves.
7. When “turf” seems to matter more often. The various departments usually run like a well-oiled machine, but now something is amiss. This can be an icky one because it often comes down to somebody’s ego. Maybe they feel discounted and are acting passive-aggressively. Or perhaps they’ve been promoted and they’re on a power trip. Possibly they’ve got trouble at home that is spilling over into work. Regardless of the reason, the results of inter-departmental conflicts are usually toxic and immediate, with customers suffering the most. Do your company a favor and make sure someone restores harmony as fast as possible. Otherwise the discord may infect everyone.
8. When apathy begins to take root. When people lose hope of getting what they want they can become apathetic. Most commonly it’s when people lose faith in themselves or their own plans, or when they feel powerless over their own condition. As a change agent you must be aware that apathy usually precedes depression. Leaving the mental health aspects aside, a great way to fight this battle is to help find ways to increase employee engagement. Encouraging fresh assignments with specific authority might just do the trick to re-energize a person or group.
9. When the credibility of leadership starts to slide. The credibility of any one leader reflects on the credibility of every leader. Lunchroom conversation often reveals this sort of thing. Folks begin to avoid, discount, or simply mistrust one or more key leaders. What happens next is predictable: employees often let that leader fail and hope that sooner or later the “higher-ups” will replace them. This approach, while common, is ineffective at best and cruel at worst. If you get the sense that certain leaders have lost the trust of others, find someone that you trust completely and then strategize together a game plan to confront the issue respectfully.
10. When permanent heroes and/or villains emerge. Every member of the team should have their time in the sun. This spreads the good will of the organization around, builds unity, and grows each member, too. Likewise, each person might have to be the “bad guy” from time to time. But too often a small percentage of people carry more than their share of the glory or the thankless/negative duties. Regardless of the cause, this issue almost always limits growth and success since the capacity of the organization is dramatically reduced. Of all of the 10 battles we’ve discussed here, this is often the most firmly entrenched. It’s also ripe for change as we get others more involved.
Effective folks have unseen antennae that continually sense the environment for threats and opportunities to move the company over or around the obstacles of the day. Continue to watch out for these 10 conditions and your own antennae will develop nicely. Your team will thank you!
A Final Word of Caution
Fighting these battles is critical, but don’t become an informer to management. The difference between an informer and a true agent of change is in the quality of the relationships that are built at every level in the organization. Informers constantly look over their shoulders. Change agents have built solid foundations of trust with others. If all you want to do is enlighten management to the problems in the organization, do yourself and the company a favor and find a new job elsewhere. Sorry… but nobody respects a tattletale.
Bruce Hendrick has been a leader of major change in corporations and small business alike for the past 25 years; he's the owner of RBB Systems and Organizational Development Services, LLC; noted speaker, author, active church member and community volunteer.
Check out our latest video for maufacturers, which will give you a foundation to think about the changes you can make in your business to serve your customers and do it profitably.