News and Best Practices

Your Role as Change Agent

August 5, 2016

BEING A BETTER MANAGER – As a cannabis store owner, manager, assistant manager or supervisor, you are a change agent. You are constantly called on to initiate, implement and manage change. The change can be as minor as shifting work assignments between two team members or as major as implementing a new point-of-purchase system that fundamentally changes how all team members do their work.

Change can be difficult for people, and how well you help your team deal with change will determine in large part how effective the new plan, program or process will be. People resist change for many reasons, including:

  • Lack of ownership: They feel like something new is being imposed on them.
  • Disruption in routine: It goes against old habits and ways of doing things.
  • Fear of the unknown: They don’t know what’s coming, and they’re concerned.
  • Lack of understanding: They don’t understand the purpose or what will be involved.
  • Fear of failure: They don’t know if they can be successful.
  • Greater effort than reward: The work required seems larger than the potential benefit to them.
  • Comfort with the status quo: They are satisfied with the way things are.
  • Negative thinking: They dwell on all the reasons they don’t want to change.
  • Hesitancy to commit: They resist committing out of fear of failure.

As a manager and change agent, being aware of the reasons people resist change will help you be proactive in addressing issues and concerns, and helping your team get behind new initiatives. Just acknowledging that change isn’t easy will help team members take the first step toward coping with it.

Seven steps to coping with change

Here are seven steps to cope with change. Consider how you can use each one to help your team cope with changing situations:

  1. Accept change; don’t fight it. Say you promote someone into a supervisory role. Even though receiving a promotion is good news, they may resist parts of the change that comes with it. For example, they may be put off by new responsibilities, avoiding making the transition from being a friend to their co-workers to being their boss. Step 1 is to realize that the fact that they are a supervisor now, and resisting this change only makes it harder to deal with. Work with them to make a commitment to accept everything involved with their new role and to embrace the new responsibilities, transitions and duties that they’ve been resisting.
  2. Focus on the positive. There are always pluses and minuses to anything new. A team member can choose to dwell on the difficult parts of their job or appreciate that the management of your store believes the change is necessary to the store’s success. Help them focus on what they need to do and how they’re going to make a positive difference. Steer them away from spending time on negative feelings or people.
  3. Acknowledge negative emotions, but move on. Change brings fear, self-doubt, impatience, blame, guilt and other negative emotions. Help your team members understand, expect and acknowledge them without letting negative emotions get in the way. Some people find it helpful to make a list of their negative feelings then tear it up; it helps them feel like they’ve dealt with them. If a team member is having trouble with negative feelings about a change, have them try writing them down then throwing them away.
  4. Think like your GPS. It only has two things to worry about: “Where am I?” and “where do I need to go?” Help your staff avoid getting distracted by side issues. If something comes up and they’re not sure how to handle it or whether it’s important, think like a GPS. Is it important to where I am or where I’m going? If it is, how is it relevant? The answer to that question will help them determine the best way to handle it.
  5. Turn to others for help. There’s a wealth of help if you open yourself to it. For example, your team members have a support system; why not use it? They can talk to you, fellow employees, HR manager and others. They’ve all handled stressful changes, too. Encourage your staff member to talk to people in their support system about the things they’re having difficulty with, as well as to ask for advice. Just talking about it can be beneficial. Also, do some research; there are many excellent books and articles about handling change.
  6. Turn to yourself for help. One of the best places to look when you’re dealing with change is to your inner strength, flexibility and belief system. These can help you through difficult times that the change may cause. Sometimes your employees just need to be reminded of that they are strong. Help them learn to tap into their inner strength during the transitions and other times of change.
  7. Take action. Sitting, wondering, waiting and analyzing have a place. But if you’re struggling with change, rolling up your sleeves and digging into the work can be the most important thing you can do. Taking action gets momentum going, and once you have that, the little, nagging problems just seem to disappear. Help your employees remember that. Also, it becomes easier to kick into GPS mode and focus on where you are and where you need to go if you are acting rather than wondering.

Remember that change is hard, and how well you help your team members cope with it will have a direct impact on how successful you are as a manager.


By the Dispensary Management Today staff
Dispensary Management Today articles are for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal guidance or advice on dispensary operations. You should contact an attorney or a qualified cannabis consultant for specific compliance and dispensary/retailing advice.


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