When leaders know how to effectively manage transition, the challenge posed by change lessens, unleashing opportunity.
If there’s one thing that’s constant in the 9-1-1 industry, it’s change. The technology we use is changing faster than ever, and as you work to improve your center, you’ve probably noticed other changes as well: new communication habits, healthier culture, stronger teamwork. These are exciting improvements, and they show your commitment — and your employees’ — to transforming yours into a People Driven Center!
But when leaders are ineffective at managing the transition between the old way and the new, your change efforts may hit a roadblock. Let’s compare two different centers — one that managed their transition successfully, and another that didn’t.
The director at Comm Center A faced a big task: consolidate two smaller centers into one large one. He knew that trying to slam two centers together without preparing his people properly would be a dismal failure. So he sat down with each employee, one-on-one, and explained the upcoming process. He shared timelines and other specifics, with as much notice as possible, so they had time to adjust.
The consolidation effort at Comm Center B went much differently. Management held no future-oriented discussions with employees pre-consolidation. They made no efforts to solve current problems before the transition took place. Instead, managers focused primarily on the technology side of the effort. Then, one day, the two teams suddenly found themselves under one roof.
These two centers handled big transitions in two different ways. Which transition do you think ended up being successful?
The director at Comm Center A helped his employees work through the transition as a team, forging a new pathway together. Everyone was involved in enacting changes. Each team member felt they had a stake in their center’s progress, and the transition was carried out successfully.
At Comm Center B, on the other hand, it wasn’t surprising to learn that both teams felt neglected pre-transition, and this didn’t change afterwards. It’s also probably not surprising to share that today, years after the consolidation, employees are still talking about how poorly the effort went.
Ensuring your center’s successful transition from “barely passable” to “People Driven” might feel overwhelming, but it’s easier than you think. Here’s how the best teams do it:
#1) Figure out how individuals may need to change to suit the team.
It isn’t enough to simply instruct your employees to “work as a team.” If they knew how to do it, it would already be happening! Your employees need to know how teamwork differs behaviorally and attitudinally from the way they’re working currently.
The director at Comm Center A took time to consider each of his employees’ individual traits before and during the transition. By meeting with them one on one, he was able to tailor his feedback and expectations for the upcoming changes to that individual’s strengths and weaknesses. Management at Comm Center B, by contrast, didn’t meet with any employees before the transition. They offered no individual feedback and seemed to hope everything would somehow work out.
Be specific and honest with your employees about which attitudes and behaviors will lead to success, and which will not. Until the required changes are specifically spelled out, people won’t be able to improve the way needed.
#2) Talk to your people.
Ask your team about the problems they’re currently experiencing and the cause of them. Open-ended questions like, “What’s your perspective on things?” work well to start a conversation and show a willingness to listen. If you ask, “Why aren’t you doing this?” you’ve set up an adversarial dynamic and will probably get a defensive answer.
The director at Comm Center A made talking to his team a priority throughout the entire transition. He took the time to check in with each individual to get their take on the center’s progress. Questions like “How do you think we’re doing on this?” or “What do you feel we could be handling better?” netted him constructive responses that he could then turn into solutions for the entire center.
Management at Comm Center B didn’t take the time to talk to their people, and it showed in the end result. If they had made the effort, perhaps they would’ve been better able to address the challenges that ultimately tanked the transition. They would have known, for example, that some employees didn’t understand elements of the plan, or that others felt too anxious to want to stick around.
Talking to your team at every stage of your center’s transition to a People Driven Center is key to making sure the changes you make, stick.
#3) Address the effect transitions have on people.
Give supervisors and others involved with the initiative training on how to make it successful. Everyone can benefit from understanding transitions. If your team understands what transitions feel like, they will feel more confident that they haven’t taken a wrong turn.
At Comm Center A, openly discussing the transition made it easier for employees and supervisors alike to adapt to the changes, while in process.
“We went from talking about how bad things [had been] to talking about positive changes, and how we could continue to change things for the better,” the director said.
The center successfully created a new identity by marking the passing of the old and focusing on the positive changes that took its place.
#4) Start holding regular team meetings.
Even before you start moving furniture, you can begin to build your center’s new identity by having teams meet regularly. Throughout their transition, the director at Comm Center A convened committees to create and implement solutions to problems front line employees were experiencing. Together, the team fashioned the new way forward.
Especially with a big change, frequent pow-wows can override the old habits and build the new relationships that teamwork requires. If it’s important, give it a visible place on the calendar and then prioritize the time to bring people together.
When leaders know how to effectively manage transition, the challenge posed by change lessens, unleashing opportunity. Being mindful of a few things — including team dynamics and frequent communication — will help ensure your center’s transformation is a success.
Thanks for reading this article, containing excerpts of my upcoming book, “People Driven Leadership: How the Best 9-1-1 Centers Inspire Positive Change.”
This is the eleventh article of 20. Stay tuned for the next!
“People Driven Leadership: How the Best 9-1-1 Centers Inspire Positive Change” will be available on April 13, 2020, the beginning of National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week. For more details, visit The Healthy Dispatcher website