The Change Offensive: Part II

by | Jun 13, 2018 | Culture, Leadership

In our last post we discussed why employees (and most people) resist change even though change is critical to the ongoing success of organizations. We identified 4 major causes of resistance:

  • Upending Routine: Much of what employees do day-to-day is habit, and habits are deeply ingrained and take a great deal of time to change.
  • Social Bonds at Work Drive Performance: Strong relationships at work are a key predictor of performance. Shaking up and breaking those bonds leave employees unable to focus productively on work.
  • Excellent Presentations, and no Communication: When leaders tell and sell, employees don’t listen. Communication is a two-way endeavor.
  • WIFM (What’s in it for me?): When employees don’t know if a change will affect them positively or negatively, they are unlikely to support the change.

So in the midst of a strategy realignment, a post-merger integration, growth, or leadership change, how can senior management excite and engage employees? Our experience has highlighted 5 key actions that make change happen more smoothly and sustainably.

  1. Articulate and Share Your Vision: What is the purpose of the change? What is the vision driving the change? What will the business and the organization look like? Being part of a movement to achieve a goal creates momentum and engagement. Doing so requires a shared vision and a clear understanding of the actions and milestones, of the benefits to be had, and of one’s role in making it all happen.
  2. Cultivate Followers: People want to be involved in high-energy movements. When “everyone” is involved, no one wants to be left behind. Creating a movement, however, requires that the first few followers are key influencers, people whom others WANT to follow. Carefully selecting the first few followers and involving them in the change is critical. Nurture your Change Champions, create opportunities for them to showcase their excitement about the change at hand. Be explicit about the role of the Champions and be sure they see What’s In It For Them.
  3. Release Those Who Don’t Fit: Angry, bitter employees and those who dig in their heels and actively reject change can sabotage your best efforts. Just as Change Champions can create excitement, Poisonous Pats cause doubt and fear among their peers. Give people time to adapt and the attention they might need to understand the change, but once you definitely decide that an employee is a bad fit, take action.
  4. Allow Realistic Time for Individuals’ to Change: People experience loss, fear, curiosity and then acceptance. People and organizations in the throes of change move from a state of disruption to disorder and with the right support will emerge with a fresh perspective and increased engagement. Each person is at a different place on the continuum at any given time and will stay at each point for a different length of time. Make sure that your plan allows people to travel at their own pace.
  5. Tell Employees How the Change Affects Them: No matter how lofty and exciting your new vision and strategy might be, every employee worries about how the change will affect her personally. Be as clear as possible as early as possible. Employees worried about losing their jobs, losing their power, or losing what they most enjoy at work are measurably less productive. Let them know what is in store for them.

Understanding why change is so hard and how to overcome the challenges eases the journey for all. Most of all, share your excitement! It is contagious.

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