LBM dealers today face unprecedented, unpredictable, gut-wrenching change, from supply chain logistics and automation to mass consolidation and customization. The core issue is not so much how you restructure your delivery systems, align with top 10 builders, merge with regional or national chains, or even whether you keep, drop, or expand existing lines of business. It is how you manage the people side of change.

And not all reactions to change are negative. Just as two spouses can loathe or love the same movie (Field of Dreams is an example in my family), human nature tells us that two people can experience the same change event with two totally different outcomes–either positive or negative. It is therefore imperative you learn how to manage both sides of the change cycles. In either case, the goal is to lead them to a commitment to the change.

This month we'll explore the four stages of positive change and provide tips on how to lead people through each stage. In my next column, in April, we'll look at managing negative response to change.

Leading Within the Positive Cycle

"I love it. It's about time we did this. We should have done this long ago."

This is what we love to hear from our employees about change. Yet you must realize that just because they are positive about the change does not mean you need only focus on those who are against it. Those who are for the change can still experience uncertainty as the true effects of change set in.

There are four stages of positive change:

Stage 1: Excitement Employees are motivated about the change, but don't empower them quite yet. First, reinforce the idea of the change. Let them know how much you appreciate their enthusiasm and that you too see the change as positive. Then, prepare them for hurdles. Most change initiatives bring trials and tribulations. Help employees keep a realistic perspective that they may indeed face some problems but will in the end be successful.

Stage 2: Doubt After the initial excitement, reality sets in and with it some problems appear. You'll hear your team say, "Man, this is tougher than I thought." The first thing to do is let them know their feelings are OK, that it's all right to be frustrated or disappointed with any lack of progress. Then provide them with direction in the form of new ideas, suggestions, or brainstorming sessions to overcome the implementation problems.

Stage 3: Hope A team coached through doubt will emerge with hope. "Hey, it's getting better" and "We're now finally making some progress" are common things you will hear. In this stage, you should first acknowledge their progress. Congratulate them (publicly or privately) for working through their doubt. Then provide whatever support they need, be it resources, equipment, or even budget. Why? Now that they have hard-earned insight into how to make the change work, additional resources may be necessary to get the change fully implemented.

Stage 4: Commitment Finally, success! Now your team is saying, "We knew this would work all along." Still, there are three things you need to do. First, celebrate the success. Keep motivation high by injecting some fun into the process. Second, recognize the team's growth, both personally and professionally. Finally, prepare them for the next change. Remind them that more changes will come, and through their positive outlook and tenacity, they can handle any change in the future.

Dr. Jim Harris The ultimate goal is to gain your employees' commitment to the change, because without their commitment your changes, however profitable or noble, are doomed to fail. Even if your employees react positively, you'll still need to manage the people side of change.

Editor's Note: See part two of this topic in Jim's April "Leading Edge." To see a diagram of Jim's "Change Leadership Model" and his "Ten Commandments for Managing Change," visit

–Dr. Jim Harris is president of The Jim Harris Group, a Pensacola, Fla.?based leadership and management consulting firm. 877.638.7733. E-mail: [email protected]