What are the undesirable characteristics of a change manager?

To be a successful change manager, you need strong leadership skills.  Most people find change to be scary and even something to be feared, so developing strong change management principles is crucial.

A change manager sets the tone within the organization and guides the employees through the process.  Some changes are minor, while others may be complex.  If the change includes layoffs, fear and uncertainty may spread rapidly throughout the organization.  The individual tasked with leading the organizational change will significantly impact the success or failure of that change initiative.

Organizations need to select a change manager with strong leadership skills.  Unfortunately, not everyone has these skills.  Some traits are undesirable for change management, and if a change manager has these characteristics, it could spell trouble for the employees.

Below is a list of a change manager’s six most undesirable characteristics.  With the proper training, leaders tasked with change management may overcome these shortcomings.

Poor Communication

If a manager lacks communication skills, the chances for a successful change drop dramatically.  Communication skills are at the heart of every business operation.  Whether you’re communicating with company stakeholders or meeting with vendors and outside contractors, a manager must be able to articulate the vision and goal of the change.

Ineffective communication can be frustrating and breeds distrust and confusion.  If a change manager cannot articulate the vision accurately, productivity and company culture will suffer.

Lack of Strategic Thinking

Leading a complicated change process requires the ability to think strategically.  Much like chess, managers must have the ability to think three or four moves ahead.  Managers should have a strong understanding of the end goal and be able to plot a path of least resistance.  The leadership approach impacts the vision and direction of growth for your organization.

John Kotter, one of the most widely regarded speakers on the subject of leadership and change, stated, “The rate of change is not going to slow down anytime soon.  If anything, competition in most industries will probably speed up even more in the next few decades.”

Poor Time Management

Missed deadlines, late meetings, and slow communication are all symptoms of poor time management.  Change happens fast, and time can slip away when you add in the demands of everyday business operations.

Change managers need a way to manage their time.  They can’t allow themselves to sit endlessly in meetings or to be distracted from the core operation being adjusted.  Distractions are a real danger and should be avoided whenever possible.

Micromanaging and Failure to Relinquish Control

Leadership doesn’t mean you need to do everything yourself.  A good leader knows when to handle an issue and when to delegate.  Change managers will find they have many issues to deal with each day, so delegating tasks will be essential.  Micromanagement can make employees feel undervalued and have a loss of autonomy in the workplace.  Avoiding it increases retention, improves morale and culture, and achieves higher productivity.

The best way to avoid micromanaging is to trust your employees.  Give positive feedback when appropriate and offer new learning opportunities if you have an employee who isn’t performing.

Failing to Encourage Team Members

Philip Crosby, author of the books Quality Without Tears and Quality is Free, stated that “slowness to change usually means fear of the new.”  Change managers must know how to encourage their coworkers and quell fear.  A properly communicated change management project will greatly reduce fear of the unknown.

If layoffs are on the horizon, encouraging team members becomes even more important.  That encouragement may include helping employees find new positions within the company or another organization.  It may also involve putting them in contact with external assistance like employment counselors.

Encouraging is different from cheerleading or giving false hope.  It simply means that the change manager is constantly communicating with the affected employees and helps guide them, regardless of a positive or negative outcome.

No Formal Training

Being a good organizational leader doesn’t automatically mean someone will be a good change manager.  While the roles can be similar, a change manager understands different change principles.  These principles must be taught; they aren’t just based on instinct.

For example, a change manager must understand change resistance and the tools needed to overcome it.  They should also study and understand how businesses go through change and what factors lead to failure.

Going through a training program, then undertaking a change management certification can help ensure a change manager is up to date on the latest change theories.

David Lovell

David Lovell

Master of Business Administration
Festus, Missouri