Editor's Blog


Culture of Change

November 28, 2011
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When I do workshops, I ask the audience, “Why do people resist change?”

I get a lot of great answers like: “It’s against our human nature to change,”
“It’ll be a lot of work to change so it’s easier to do nothing,” or
“Fear of the unknown”.

After many years of being the Agent of Change at my own company and now at many companies I can tell you the #1 reason I find people resist change… “It’s the Fear of Failure!”

They can absolutely hate what they are doing or what they have to deal with at work and you can offer them something that should be obviously a better way. However, invariably the unspoken resistance built up by their own fears of failure finds a way to rear its ugly head. “Fear of Failure” is a powerful force.

It causes staff members to skip trying to change things because if it doesn’t work out they’ll feel like they tried and failed which is bound to be disappointing to them or you, or both. So, the status quo wins and the misery continues. That is unless you are willing to take this adversary on head first when you are proposing any sort of change.

Here’s what I did when I realized how powerful the fear of failure was and how much it undermined the desire for change. I learned to say, “We’re going to change [whatever it was] and I know that can be scary, so I’m going to kick it in slowly over the next 30 days so everyone can get comfortable. Also, I’m going to setup the corresponding training that will make all of us, including me, better prepared to succeed and there will be no reason to fear failing here.”

It’s the spoonful of sugar that made the medicine go down.

Words Are Not Enough

You must back up your words by:
    1. Defining exactly what change you’re seeking
    2. Sharing why we need this change
    3. Objectively defining how we will know if the change is helping us
    4. Sharing what resources we have to make the change become permanent
    5. Explaining what’s their WIIFM [“What’s In It For Me”] either good or bad for helping to bring about this change.
 
The other thing that will derail change is trying to change too many things all at once without a plan. Change without a plan is really just an invitation to chaos. That’s why you need to focus on getting one positive change in place and build confidence and enjoy the win. Then, it makes it easier to get your team to buy-in as you seek to get the next change implemented.

If you get the input of your team about what needs changing vs. just making mandates about what must change, you greatly affect the chances that the change will be embraced. Everyone at your company is dying to have their voice heard.

Remember, even though they suggest a change doesn’t mean you have to do it. But certainly find the balance in that they’re adults and adults need to be treated differently than kids. To me, they are owed an answer and it’s typically one of the following three answers when they ask for a change:
    1. Yes, we can do that.
    2. We can’t do that today, but we can re-visit it in the next six months.
    3. No, we can’t do that and here’s why.


Making Change Positive

Never feel pressured to answer immediately when a request for a change is made. Let them know by writing it down that they’ve been heard and let them know when they can expect one of the three answers from above.

Here’s a tip, unless you hate it, try to implement something they recommend that needs changing. It buys you a lot of credibility when you tell them their input is important vs. asking for input and never acting upon it.

One more strange thing about change, people get so attached to the status quo that they will defend the old way of doing things despite the fact they groused about it for years. As you build the momentum of positive change being implemented at your company, the pace quickens and pretty soon there are more and more people coming to your aid in moving your company in a positive direction of change.

After all, the only thing you can really count on in life and in business is change. So, why not get really good at it?

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