When a new change initiative comes along, it may be greeted with a yawn and a sideways look – another “Flavor of the Month.” So, how do you get folks to move? Using your own authority or referring to senior leaders’ authority by saying “They say we have to…” may create polite compliance but ultimately it just creates resentment and disengagement. Most important, it won’t do anything for your own credibility as a leader.
Emotions play a key role in starting any change initiative. We tend to think that we should keep emotions out of business. Wrong! Emotions cannot be separated from all the other stuff in our brains. It all works together. We can keep our emotions appropriate and focused on business outcomes but we absolutely CANNOT ignore them especially when it comes to getting people to do things differently. If we truly care about the business outcome, we — and they — will be invested in it and that means emotions are involved.
Here are 2 types of messages that jump start action:
Warn of Loss
This approach means that you’ll need to paint an unpleasant future – a scenario that nobody wants to be part of. You’ll need to identify what is at risk and how. Maybe it’s your market share, maybe it’s your credit rating, maybe it’s the risk of litigation – whatever it is don’t be reluctant to spell it out. Go ahead and identify the worst case. Your change initiative is not just some idea dreamed up because somebody had nothing better to do. Explain WHY. Share what it will mean if people do not change. Many people I work with are hesitant to be “negative.” You’re not being negative rather you’re identifying the risk. Remember, your message is ultimately positive because you are communicating how to AVOID the loss by changing. Go ahead and dig into what the bad outcome will be without change so everyone knows WHY this change is necessary and what is at risk.
Buy into the Dream
This approach is about potential, possibility and a desired future. This is more fun, I agree, than warning of loss – and the two can certainly be in one message. If you do use both, you’ll certainly want to close your message with the dream of the future. Go into detail, paint the picture so they can truly visualize it. When you describe the dreamed-of future, remember that it’s not all about money – not at all. It’s about doing good in the world. Sure, we all want to have enough money to be comfortable but believe me, people are motivated by more than money. They want to make a difference. Don’t be the leader that talks about how much more money everyone can make if people adopt the change. Appeal to a better future for your organization and for the world. That’s how you can jump start action.
Let me know how it goes.