No matter how cool, calm and collected professionals may look or what they might be willing to admit, change makes them nervous. You might hear it in a tone of voice, see it in body language or sometimes hear it stated right up front. I recently had a conversation with a senior executive who has been given the responsibility of leading a big organizational change. It will involve various different units in the organization. She told me that the response, from a senior leader, to her mandate was “I’m happy to help you but…” and began to explain why they resisted the change. It’s not at all unusual. Doubt, anxiety and resistance are always part of a change initiative. That’s one thing that will never change!
Starting and (most important) sustaining a change initiative relies on motivation and inclusion. A key part of leading a change effort is breaking down the walls that people put up. Any good change management strategy should include various ways to reduce resistance and lower anxiety by building motivation. Here are 3 basics:
- Build Your Case very Clearly. Always start with why. Use concise and simple language. Reduce complexity so your message is memorable and can be repeated. Nobody’s going to be invested until they clearly understand the motivation and share it. Just because someone said things need to change is not enough. That may be build compliance but not engagement. Everyone needs to understand it in a way that they can repeat to others.
- Constantly Communicate. You cannot build your case once and assume everyone got it. We all need big ideas to be reinforced. There’s an old acronym in sales: ABC that stands for Always Be Closing. You might think about leading change with the same letters but standing for Always Be Communicating. Any change management strategy that does not constantly communicate will lose momentum. People need to hear two things: 1) Reminders on why this is happening and 2) Progress on the process. In my training and coaching, I say Repetition Raises Retention.
- Allow People Decisions. Change cannot happen to It needs to happen with people. Everyone should have some say in how the change is implemented. It is their job and their life. Let them have an element of control. If you keep lines of communication open for suggestions, you will hear lots of good ideas from the people who need to make the change happen. Use those ideas because it will build more engagement in the process. Co-create the change.
Let me know how you might have applied these ideas or how you plan to.