It is during major changes that leadership can make a decisive difference. Both top management and middle management must not neglect the human side during processes of change. A good relationship of trust between the two and the right development is essential.
Peter Tuybens, director at Acerta Consult, observes that in most cases the ‘blue side’ of change is well managed: “The process side of such change projects therefore becomes much more important. This is very often led by professional teams. Acerta also has its own methodology with ‘Change Booster’. But many program managers become a little uncomfortable when people come into the picture”. That people-side of change, where it’s less about numbers and processes, but about people and their emotions, is much less considered. “People are not systems”, it sounds. “There’s often a lack of appropriate leadership in major change processes. And the different levels point to each other: the CEO points to middle management, and if you start listening to middle management, pointing upwards can be heard. “This double finger-pointing often has to do with a frustration about processes that have not been sufficiently translated to the rest of the organisation. And when it comes to the human aspect, middle management often does not have sufficient ‘weapons’ at their disposal, because the top cannot sufficiently argue why a certain change is necessary.”
OPEN AND SERENE
“A lot of top managers feel very uncomfortable when the human side is starting to become concrete,” continues Peter Tuybens. “People are afraid of resistance, they are afraid to show their own emotions”. The director of Acerta Consult explains that many top people do not dare to tell each other that they sometimes have their own doubts. Learning to adopt a vulnerable attitude towards each other already helps, even if that is often no easy task for the target group. It is important for top management to be open among themselves, but to remain serene in relation to the rest of the organisation. Serenity means staying calm in chaotic circumstances. For most people, this requires a lot of energy: you have to control your emotions. People need leaders they can look up to role models. “
Peter Tuybens: “In a classic triangle, middle management sits between executive committee and base. Well, in a process of change, middle management tends to move up. They sometimes move closer to the top management to show that they are doing a good job, to be more visible. Others get too close to their people and show understanding and empathy”, he explains. “But those who get closer to the top increase the distance to their team; those who get closer to their people are further away from the top. “It is important that middle management has a correct attitude towards both stakeholders. “
In order to get a successful buy-in from the teams, a relationship of trust with the top is necessary for middle management, then one can also be vulnerable. The advice for middle managers is therefore to gain the trust of the top in order to obtain the information necessary to show leadership towards their teams. “