The Nonverbal Key to Effective Change Management

Last year I consulted with a company in the midst of major reorganization. I was hired to work with the executive team as they designed the change strategy and discussed ways to build employee engagement for the coming changes. At one of these planning sessions, a senior executive concurred that the restructuring would streamline and improve processes in her department. She seemed straightforward and fully supportive of the proposed changes. But at some point while I listened to her comments, it suddenly hit me: she didn't believe what she was saying. It was a combination of small things: her gestures came a beat too late, she made only minimal eye contact with the rest of the team, and her energy level was too low for someone who was supposed to be an enthusiastic supporter. She had done her best to be a good corporate soldier, but her body language revealed her true feelings. She didn't approve of the direction the company was taking.

I waited to see what would happen. Sure enough, a few weeks later, the executive resigned.

There is nothing that can invigorate a business like a major change. Maybe it's the adoption of a new strategic direction or the rollout of a new product line or the chance to acquire a competitor. But when leaders rally their troops to forge ahead, they often find they are leading a charge that employees (and even some other leaders) are unwilling or unready to embrace.

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