At a very young age we begin to learn the ‘rules’ about making friends and the benefits and joy friendships can have in our lives. As children we have more of an, “I want it my way” mentality, but over time as we mature we gain more understanding of the value and emotional closeness that having friends provides. As said famously by the Beatles, “I get by with a little help from my friends.”
Change Managers very often need to display the attributes of a friend to be successful and three key qualities that stand out that can make an impact are the ability to be:
Being trusted as a friend means that people come to you for your advice, they value your input, and you are concerned about helping them without expecting anything in return. This is no different for a Change Manager. We need to be genuinely interested in our clients, not driven by self-interest, and be empathetic to their situation.
As consultants, we also strive to become ‘trusted advisors’ to our clients. We need to use this skill to create a practical change programme in the client’s situation and appeal to the underlying needs of the stakeholders going through the change.
Some of us are at our friend’s side no matter what or can see their point of view even if we disagree with it. In practice, as a Change Manager we need to step beyond our biases and put ourselves in the shoes of our client. Listening without a bias can be a useful tool to advise on what is best for the client without pushing our own agenda. This may be challenging if you have to run a robust change programme process. You will need to determine what will work for the client within this approach; show flexibility and the willingness to work within the situation and for the people dealing with the change.
Being a friend in this instance is not about doing exactly what the client wants and agreeing without exception, but instead reviewing the client situation and working together to find a solution that meets the outcome they are trying to achieve.
Finally, a Change Manager is a form of a cheerleader for the client advocating for positive change. Prosci emphasises that, “employees are the ones that will ultimately need to change and if the individuals are not successful in changing, the project will fail.” Each person will go through their own change journey and they will need encouragement to accept and embed the changes.
A friend can also be someone you look up to and see as a role model. In any change programme there are key individuals that you need to reassure; this is not always possible when the audience for the change is a large organisation. In order to reach a widespread audience, you’ll need to balance being a friend and a role model; and equip leaders to inspire their people to walk into the future with them.