Let’s look at managing change, either a big change initiative or even a small change in procedure. Lesson One: Expect resistance. Change, great or small, can become overwhelming for some people. Not all people, but some people. Everyone at some point is going to feel the stress of the change, but some people more than others. Why do people resist change? Part of it is the fear factor. People fear change, especially in an organization because they don’t know what is going to look like and how they’re going to fit in. Am I still going to have a job? What’s my job going to be? Am I going to want this job? Do I even want to stay here? Is my pay going to be affected? Are my benefits affected? What’s the long-term vision for the organization?
I need to know the long-term effect on me and my life because let’s face it, it’s always all about me. It’s always all about me. It’s always all about whatever is going on with me and how it’s going to affect me and the sooner you, as a manager, as the leader, can figure out that everyone around you is more concerned with their own personal life instead of yours or the organization’s viability, the better off you’re going to be. People resist change because of fear of the unknown. They don’t know what’s going to happen and exactly how they will be impacted.
If your business or your organization is government, city, state, federal, county, you’re used to following rules all the time. If your industry is overseen by these regulatory agencies, your people have been trained to follow the rules, even if they would love to embrace a change, they are taught and paid to follow rules. Then you come in and say we’re going to change the way something’s done, whether it’s a minor change or a huge change, they’re going to be resistant immediately. They’ve been trained to stay within boundaries and now you want them to step out of the box. Expect resistance.
Even though some people are more resistant to change than others, if you, the leader, expect resistance, you can address it. One of the first things you can do is share as much information as you possibly can as quickly as you can. Transparency is a buzz word these days, but it is critical to be as transparent as possible as soon as possible. So often managers withhold information because they’re waiting for the right time or it’s not fully put together. Here’s the deal, there is usually a lot of information that can be shared, but managers are hesitant to share it. They think they have to keep all the information secret and then unveil this huge plan that has been fully developed. Spoiler alert! No matter how well planned, there will be major adjustments to that plan. There is no perfect plan when it comes to implementation.
Baby steps. Baby steps can be good. Share information as you can. I understand and other people understand that you may not be able to share every little bit of information that you have; however, when you do have the ability to share part of it, be as transparent as possible. Remember, it’s all about me.
Share as much information as you possibly can when you can share it and don’t delay. I can’t emphasize this enough. Don’t put it off for two more weeks just because you’re busy. Make time. If you want people on board with your change, let them know what’s going on. Know that there’s going to be resistance. The other key point I want to make is you should not punish the resistors. There are going to be people who resist the change to the bitter end. Imagine it if you will. The train is in the station. People are getting on board. Some hopped onboard the minute the train came to enough of a stop that the doors were open and they jumped on. They were totally in on that change immediately. Other people were a little slower and they sauntered over to the train and gingerly stepped on. Then, you have the people, and you know who they are, standing on the platform.
As the train is starting to pull away and the doors are about to close, they run at the last minute and jump on. It’s okay. It is okay that some people waited till the last minute to get on board. Be the bigger person, be the better leader and embrace them for getting onboard. Do not punish them for being a late comer. Do you not make snide comments over time like, “Oh, well we know that Sally over there won’t get on board,” accept them when they jump on the train. Just because you respond to a change very quickly, adapt and adopt it very quickly, doesn’t mean everybody else does. They’re all over the board on when they’re going to get onboard. You know your people who immediately bulk if anything’s going to be changed, anything at all. Know that about them.
If you know that’s their struggle, getting onboard, have a conversation with them, find out what they’re scared about, find out what they’re upset about. Answer as many questions as you can, but once they make that turn, once they jump on that train, once they’re on board, do not punish them. Embraced him for being part of the change that’s happening. It doesn’t matter when they got on the train, they got on the train. Expect resistance. People are scared. They don’t know how it will affect them.
Share as much information as you possibly can, as soon as you possibly can.
Don’t punish the resisters.
I’m Jennifer Takagi and I would love to connect with you and if there’s any way I can help you with change within your organization or at an event, please contact me, firstname.lastname@example.org