I met Ellen through LinkedIn and we had few calls about HR and the future of work. I interviewed her on the topic of managing change as an HR. Here are the nuggets of knowledge she shared with me.
Most of the time, she received her mandates from the HR or the CEO. She mostly accompanied people in transition from a team member to a team leader role. In some cases, she guided team leaders transitioning back into the team member role because being a leader was simply not their thing. She used moderation, one to one coaching and worked with the employees over the transition period which was usually few months.
She tried to get to the bottom of the motivations and reasons for her mandate. Most of the time, she observed CEOs who said that the situation to be dealt with were at the employee’s level. Apparently, CEOs (and people in generale) prefer to point their finger toward others instead of seeing themselves as being part of the transition process.
Her role was to clarify the wishes, expectations and needs of the CEOs a the transitioning employee. She supported the employee into defining a personalized approach to the transition while making sure it fitted the companies needs. What she loves the most about her role is to see how the concerns of employees (e.g. will I lose my job, I am in danger…) transformed into enthusiasm. She saw that providing a safe space to the CEO or employee allowed them to express their concerns and ideas freely. She made sure that people were solution oriented. The most important is always to ask the following question:
- Why I am here?
- What is my role in the whole business and why am I important to the success of the company?
- What have I done so far that helped me grow?
- What can I do to keep growing?
When those questions are answered it is then possible to find meaningfulness in individual jobs which gives a boost of energy. Employees realize that they are the door opener. They understand that they are actors in the company and not simple observers. They can arrange their work in such a way that they become more successful.
Everything has a difficult side. Helping people transition is not a smooth process. People personality does not change. Only few CEOs are ready to change their mindset and understand that they are part of the system and must be the change they want to see in the world. Ellen experienced many CEOs who preferred that things remained the same to minimize frictions. They interpreted the fact that employee stayed in their company as being a sign that everything went well. Their blind spot is the realities that their employees may be living with. You may stay in a company for thousands reason even if it is the worst place to work because:
- You are over 50 and have few opportunities to be hired somewhere else because you are going to retire soon and few employers hire for short term.
- You just bought a house and must pay your loan. Changing job with the uncertainty to keep it is not an option. So yes, your are staying even if you would prefer to be somewhere else
- You just got your second child. Your are seen as “unpredictable” because who takes care of ill babies ? The mother…
- You just started in your career and need this first experience to look good on your resumé.
You get it there are many reasons to stay in a company that have nothing to do with the company itself. Some employees endure bad works conditions because they feel that they have no choice.
Some CEOs & HR people are not ready to change their mindset. They did not want to work with Ellen as an equal who could help them have the overview of the whole. They did not accept “Augenhöhe” (trad: being at the same eye-level). They wanted to be the boss at the top of the pyramid who knows it all without being aware of their blind spots.
What could CEO & HR do to change the game?
Based on the discussion with Ellen and my experience here are the actions you could take to step up your game.
The first and most important part of changing the game is to recognize the situation as it is. A CEO or an HR does not know everything. Otherwise, when they offer a solution to a problem it would go smoothly.
Once they are aware of that they need to desire to change their mindset. This can be supported by interacting with their employees to gain knowledge of their diverse point of views. In the case of an employee becoming a team leader. It is meaningful to bing the future team and HR or CEO together together in a workshop.
There you can clarify the WHY the transition is needed, WHO is involved in it, what GOALS should be pursued and measured and finally HOW each individual can participate to the success of the transition.
Afterward, each person should take action based on the decisions taken during the Workshop. The participants must evaluate regularly if the action plan supports the goals achievement. They can adapt it during a follow up Workshop if it doesn’t. Most importantly, those new habits must be reinforced by bringing the team regularly together.
The world is more connected and complex than before. It is by tapping into people potential, talents and knowledge that you can adapt in this ever changing world.
A big thank you to Ellen Maier who agreed to be interviewed.