This past week one of my favorite former teammates called me for a little support and a little advice. For the most part, her new position is everything she’d hoped for. Her boss supports her, has empowered her, her peers are excited about the talents and ideas she brings to the table, and the majority of her team is embracing change with surprising ease and enthusiasm. Yes, for the most part things are going great.
So why did she call me? Well, like most of us taking on new leadership roles, she has encountered that one small group of employees bound and determined to resist any new ideas, strategies or techniques. You know the type, no matter how clear Executive Management has been about the need for change and the need to increase profitability, they fight change with everything they’ve got. They seem bound and determined to make the process as difficult as possible.
Now to my friend’s credit, she was calling for ideas on how to win this group over, how to get them to buy-in and how to help them be successful. I say to her credit, because her boss has given her the freedom to decide at any time who is on the bus and who needs to get off. So, despite the fact that this small group of individuals is fighting her at every turn, she still wants to help them be successful.
So, we talked for a while, discussed a few new ideas and tactics she could try, and we put it all together into a list of 5 tips every leader should use when helping their team through change. Five tips to make sure that everyone gets on the bus!
1. Understand Why – it is key that employees first understand why change needs to be made, or the purpose of the new direction the organization is taking. When they understand the reasoning or logic behind the change they are much more open to accept it.
2. Ownership – People support what they help create. While the new direction and focus of the organization needs to be set by Executive Leadership; giving employees a say in how to get there can bring a huge return on investment. Not only will you get better ideas and strategies on how to make the change, but they’ll take more personal responsibility for making it happen.
3. Support and Accountability – Let people know they are accountable to make the change, and that you are there to support them every step of the way. Often resistance to change is based in fear and anxiety. Often people don’t make change because they are unclear about exactly how to do it. Make sure your door is open, you are approachable and you are proactive and non-judgmental in your willingness to help employees clearly navigate the change.
4. Celebrate EVERY Win – No matter now small, remember every step forward in the change process is important. Celebrate it. Don’t expect people to go from 0 to 60 without going from 0 to 2 first. The more you are positive about every forward step they take, the more confidence they’ll build and the more progress they will make.
5. Focus On The Positive – You need to understand people are naturally resistant to change. As a leader, employees are watching where and how you spend your time. The more time and energy you spend with those on your team making progress, the more members of your team you will start moving forward. Positive beats negative every time. Even if only one member of your team is making progress, if you put your time and energy into praising, supporting and giving them recognition then more team members will follow. Focus first on those buying into the change process, then those who aren’t will either elect to follow or self-select to get off the bus.
People want to be successful, I do believe that. The more we seek first to understand as leaders, the more ability we will have to help people navigate change. We must make sure we make the process as easy as possible by respecting their need to understand, listening to their resistance, setting clear expectations and supporting them at every turn. Still there are times when not everyone will find a seat on the bus. That is our job too, as leaders we need to help them find the right bus and help them make a change to a bus route where they can be successful.