How to manage chaos during a company shakeup

Courtesy of Maren Kate Donovan

MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: How do you lead a team during a time of transition? is written by Maren Kate Donovan, CEO of Zirtual.

Don’t make change a secret
My team is without a doubt my biggest asset, which is something I never take for granted. So it’s vital to keep them in the loop during periods of change and consistently show support. Because what my employees don’t know could ultimately hurt the entire business. The sooner your team knows about upcoming shifts in the companythe better.

Additionally, give your employees ample time to adjust, as change in a company can often lead to people feeling unstable in their positions. And be transparent. Employees who can trust in the company and its management are much more likely to stay committed to the mission. It’s easy to want to play the ‘mama bear’ role in protecting your team during a transition, but they will respect you more if they are fully aware of the struggles that lay ahead.

Don’t worry about your image
A stern, fearless leader is great in the board room, but the same face is not necessarily as effective when leading a team through a transition. Showing your vulnerable side lets your employees know that you’re human, too. Often times being honest about your own uncertainties in tough times relays a stronger message than being stern. Reassuring your team that you understand the pressure they’re under during stormy timesand that you appreciate their hard workis critical to success. Good vibes in the office is also necessary for a productive and enthusiastic team. Let your office space be a safe haven for encouragement and inspiration.

Reinstate the game plan
Clarifying goals and measures used to assess success is just as important as ensuring your team is aligned with these prospective goals. Frequent reminders of long and shortterm goals will keep a focused and driven team despite periods of chaos. Provide access to your monthly and yearly objectives; it’s the simplest way to track progress and see where improvements need to be made. Sometimes a quick reminder of the euphoric state that’s to come is enough to spark lost passion.

Keep morale up
Performing frequent status checks of your team’s morale is important to the success of your team’s unity and overall productivity. This practice can be as simple as a walking through the office, asking how people are adjusting and offering help when necessary. Over the years I’ve found that very simple measures can gauge how my team is running. I call it a temperature check of hot/cold. Week to week, this measure allows me to better understand how my team is coping with the changes so that I can adjust my day according to their needs and optimistically guide the team to the end goal.

Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: How do you lead a team during a time of transition?

4 surprising leadership lessons this CEO learned from her horse by Gay Gaddis, CEO and founder of T3.

How to make change in the workplace less daunting by Sarah Watson, chief strategy officer of BBH N.Y.

The one word employees dread hearing in the workplace by Karen Tegan Padir, president of application development at Progress Software.

3 easy ways to manage chaos in the workplace by Angela Dorn, chief legal officer at Single Stop.

Meet the woman who rescued Build-A-Bear Workshop by Sharon Price John, CEO of Build-A-Bear Workshop.

Managers, this is why you need to send more emails by Liz Wiseman, president of Wiseman Group.

The upsides of change at your company by Barbara Dyer, president and CEO of The Hitachi Foundation.

How every boss should tell employees that change is coming by Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO of Ruder Finn.

3 ways to embrace change at your company by Kathy Collins, CMO of H&R Block.

A good boss never leaves their employees in the dark by Sandi Peterson, group worldwide chairman of Johnson & Johnson.

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