Managing From the Middle to Initiate Effective Change

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One of the most challenging aspects of project management is navigating teams through significant change. While those tasked with leading project-based work may not have formal authority over everyone involved, they must still be able to influence people who aren’t necessarily direct reports. This skill of managing from the middle can make the process of implementing a new project within a team smoother and more effective.

Critical Tools for Middle Managers

To successfully lead a team through a change, good project managers need to cultivate team engagement, which will inspire action that leads to results. In order to achieve this, middle managers should focus on two important tools:

Leading Without Authority

When you stand in the midst of a change initiative and communicate in all directions, relationships can be used to foster a transition process. Engagement with change then stems from trust instead of authority. Smart project managers understand that a team’s acceptance of change is critical for the successful implementation of any new project, but getting a team to accept change requires more than just announcing a project and moving on.

Effective change management comes from the ability to lead without formal authority. By establishing informal networks to build relationships – and most importantly, trust – across the organization, project leaders can engage and influence the people who will be affected by change. Keeping them informed and involved early and often through constant communication will further solidify and cultivate trust. When people are involved in the project, rather than feeling powerless, they begin to feel ownership of the changes that are occurring.

Overcoming Resistance

When a team is engaged and trusts their project leader, middle managers can better deal with resistance rather than ignoring the needs of a team simply to push an initiative forward.

Having the foresight to understand the effects a change will have on your team, as well as maintaining communication with all parties throughout the change process are simple steps middle managers can take to prevent and overcome resistance. Recalling the purpose of a change can also engage your team throughout the process, empowering them to be active participants.

Perhaps most importantly, middle managers have the ability to actively facilitate a culture that celebrates change, not punish it. Even taking steps to prepare for and assess a project, such as identifying parts of the project where your team can take action, can shift a team’s attention into focusing on a solution, rather than feeling as though the change is a punishment.

By tuning in to how a change will affect a team at all levels and engaging the team from a place of trust in the midst of an initiative, project managers can facilitate a more seamless transition, serving both the team and the organization better.

Strategy Execution Knowledge Center

Learn more about how to engage your team to become a part of effective and dynamic change.

Strategy Execution is a global leader in organizational training addressing the inherently volatile and complex business environment that now requires a more holistic and adaptive approach to managing projects.  We enable people to close the strategy execution gap and drive higher organizational performance by strengthening project leadership skills. By combining the best of cutting-edge university research and proven business techniques, we deliver training designed to increase alignment and engagement across teams, business units, or the entire enterprise. Learn more today at Join the conversation on LinkedInTwitter, and Facebook.

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