5 Points for Managers Bridging the Change Gap

5 Points for Managers Bridging the Change Gap image 20070801 083132 Bridge Collapse copy5 Points for Managers Bridging the Change GapCoaching: A bridge to the future

You may recall the terrible bridge collapse in Minneapolis in the summer of 2007, in which 13 people were killed and 145 injured. I was travelling the following day, and I found myself in a cab traveling over a bridge in Seattle on the way to my hotel.  While on the bridge, I looked across and noted an adjoining LRT (Light Rapid Transit) bridge under construction. The cab driver, with the CNN news fresh in his mind, opined that, “cities need to invest in the repair of bridges to support continued growth and usage.”

The news reports in those first few days turned to safety of the remaining bridges built many years earlier, all over the country. Federal engineers estimated, “one in four bridges are still structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.” The bottom line is that the bridges were built well for the traffic volumes of the past with the available technology at the time. Changing traffic volumes, earth and structural movement combine to require maintenance – if not complete restructuring – to allow passengers to cross safely.

Just as a well-maintained bridge is necessary to allow people to get from where they are to where they want to be, a great manager can assist those he or she is coaching/managing to reach their goals. Here are 5 points to keep in mind as a leader, when you are helping those around you to ‘bridge the gap’ between present circumstances and future goals.

Gap Coaching – 5 Points to Keep in Mind

1) Communication First - In response to change, the gap between where we are and where we want to be is always evolving. Many managers try to “manage” their team across the bridge – but those “management” skills are now obsolete. People don’t really change; they transition – so managers need to coach-lead their people. The starting point is clearly communicating the destination, making sure that everyone can see the other end of the bridge. Teams generally need to understand the “why” and “where” before they will be open to the “how” of getting across the gap.

5 Points for Managers Bridging the Change Gap image bridge Max Beckmann15 Points for Managers Bridging the Change Gap2) People Transition Differently – Just as there are many types of bridges – suspension, steel, wood and rope – so there are many ways in which people approach the process of change. If you are familiar with four-quadrant behavioral theory, you will appreciate how the four styles may differ when faced with change. In the DISC model, for example, the D Style tends to be more task-oriented and will drive change at a fast pace, while some other styles may prefer to gather more information prior to full engagement. Because of this, it’s important for managers to fully understand their people, and plan to coach them individually vs. trying to use a template-based approach to coach the whole team in the same way.

3) Seek Feedback –The 10-lane Interstate bridge that was built in Minneapolis to replace the one that collapsed is one of the world’s most technologically advanced bridges. Using fiber-optic strain gauge technology, it has 323 sensors that provide feedback to monitor corrosion, stress, and bridge movement due to weather and traffic. Likewise, as we lead others over the bridge of change, it’s important to  seek feedback from those you are leading, and to ensure that they are also receiving feedback during the journey. Managers benefit from structured developmental feedback (the most common being some form of 360 Feedback) to assist them in making any adjustments in the ongoing process.

4) Structural Strengthening – Just as bridges benefit from maintenance, so too do managers benefit from continuous learning and development. In the context of global change, there is no staying the same – managers are either progressing or regressing, relative to the environment. And, much like a bridge built for lighter loads in an earlier time, a manager who doesn’t undergo continuous maintenance and “upgrading” will eventually end up needing to be replaced, to ensure the continued success of those he was serving.

5) Budgets and Bridges – Following the Minneapolis bridge collapse, debate began on why budgets for bridge maintenance were not aligned sooner. How, people were asking, could such important infrastructure support not have been a priority? Sometimes it takes a negative event to put priorities in order; while some organizations may not be as proactive about developing their managers to lead through change, a downturn in productivity or retention may be enough to jar them out of complacency. Progressive organizations such as Zappos, GE and Proctor & Gamble see their management development as a strategic advantage. Embedding the capacity to lead effectively through ongoing change is imperative for any organization that is looking to sustain a bridge to continuing future growth and success.

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