How to use your strengths when managing change

Travel manager discussing change management with traveler

By Lelia Gowland, Principal, Gowland, LLC

Maybe this scenario sounds familiar? Travelers in your company have become used to unmanaged travel and the associated travel policy, but now both are undergoing some major changes. As travel managers, you may wind up being responsible for ensuring the logistical transition happens smoothly — and navigating the emotions that those changes evoke among travelers. 

As a travel manager, you’re a key influencer in the lives of business travelers. Change management is a great opportunity to use that influence and build stronger relationships with your team. 

The following three questions will support you in effective change management, all while playing toward your strengths. 

1) What do you need to feel confident about this transition? 

It’s a good idea to work with your new travel management company (TMC) on a strategy to inform and support the people who’ll be most affected by the transition to managed travel. Don’t forget that this includes you. 

Gallup certified strengths coach, Marta Hanson, acknowledges that managers are often taught to bypass their own needs in service of the company’s. Hanson’s approach instead encourages managers to take their own priorities and values into consideration as they begin to craft a plan. 

She says that when you understand what you value, what motivates you, and the personal roadblocks you might experience in implementation, you’ll be in a much better position to confidently build an effective rollout. 

For example, imagine your travelers are accustomed to booking travel through you, and now your company is making the switch to Egencia. 

When working with the Egencia team on the implementation plan, Hanson invites you to consider the prompts, “you get the best of me when…” and “you get the worst of me when…” 

Perhaps you know that you work best when you understand how your individual actions connect to the big picture. In that case, brainstorm the ways your rollout will positively impact the travelers you’re invested in supporting. 

Alternatively, if you know that in the past you’ve struggled when you didn’t have a clear understanding of all the details, you might want to work closely with your Egencia account manager on the minutiae.  

Take some time to identify what you need to feel confident in making the transition. 

2) How can you support others in getting what they need? 

Next, Hanson suggests you take others through a similar process of exploration. 

While it’s unlikely that you’ll have individual conversations with every traveler in your organization, you can survey your travelers to better understand their concerns and what they’re most looking forward to with the new platform. 

Odds are you’ll be able to identify some actionable themes. 

The survey may indicate that travelers value their independence. If that’s the case, focus on the ways travelers are empowered to book and change their travel through the Egencia platform, rather than having to wait for your approval. 

If they value consistency, you could share that if they’re booking on the platform, they’ll definitely be booking in-policy. They won’t risk having an expense that’s going to be rejected down the line. 

For key travelers or people with whom you have a personal relationship, individual conversations are powerful. Perhaps you’ll hear, “as a road warrior, I’m concerned that I wasn’t involved in the decision-making process.”  

Hanson suggests you probe a little deeper to understand what’s at the heart of their concern. She suggests the open-ended prompt, “would you say more about that?” You may learn that your traveler is concerned their perspective isn’t valued or that they’re feeling insecure about not knowing the new system as well as the old one. 

You’re better equipped to relieve their anxiety if you have greater clarity about their underlying concern.  

Having already reflected on what was important to you in the process, you’ll be prepared to reassure your travelers that change is worth it. Then you and the Egencia team can talk them through it step by step. 

3) What’s the strategy for implementation? 

While the first two questions focus on the human side of this process, our third considers the logistics you need to manage and how you can use your strengths while doing so. Hanson recommends clients consider the following questions: 

  • What do I know about how I work best?  
  • Where do I anticipate getting stuck? 
  • What accountability mechanisms would help me stay on track? 

Once you’ve answered those questions, incorporate them into the strategy. 

Perhaps you live and breathe by your calendar, so putting every detail of the rollout timeline into your schedule will support you staying on track. 

Or if you’re relational, maybe the introduction of a weekly check-in with colleagues will help ensure you’re on top of the process and planning ahead. 

Hanson encourages clients to bring a level of awareness to how they naturally approach problems and solutions, which helps them identify the unique value they add to any situation. 

“Strengths-based leadership is about becoming more conscious of our motivations and inherent talents – and being able to leverage them more strategically,” Hanson says. 

Humans aren’t robots, so change management is a potentially emotional process. As Hanson says, “when we have to adjust things, the strengths-based approach brings an awareness of the human element,” which will likely make the process of change management more effective.  

Ready to initiate a change in travel management at your business? Read the special implementation report to discover our top 10 tips.