We get attached to our employees though. We hired them because we had high hopes that they would be successful and flourish in our organizations. We want them to succeed because their success means success for the company. As necessary as it may be, it can be hard to execute the responsibility of the “hatchet man” – the persons in the life boat whose job it was to hack off the hands of drowning people trying to get into the boat. We don’t want to capsize and risk losing everyone; but, what are we to do? Do we just tell them to hit the road? Is there anything we can to try to “win” them over and get them to buy into the improvement effort?
I think our language can sometimes become a barrier when discussing change and resistance. Many times, the way we communicate before, during and after a change will create resistance. For any change that occurs, there are external and internal motivations. Generally, external forces initiate a reason for a change. Changes that "happen" or happen "to" us are these types of changes. They initiate the first two phases of the change cycle: denial and resistance. The timing of these phases will vary from one person to the next depending on their own personal motivation levels. They can last as long as a thought; or, sometimes one may stay in these phases for years or even an entire lifetime. The key point is that, as long as the motivation to change remains external to the person, the primary response is to attempt to maintain the status quo.
It is not until the motivation to change something becomes internal that change is embraced and progress forward can be attempted. Those who progress beyond denial and resistance will move into exploration and commitment. Some are able to internalize a reason to change and adopt early or sooner than others. So, it’s rather like the old joke, "How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb? One; but the light bulb has to really want to change." People have to want to change in order to begin to explore, and then ultimately commit to, what the change will mean for them.
The Heart of Change
by John P. Kotter & Dan S. Cohen
Available on Amazon
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Using these tools still does not guarantee that everyone will welcome the change. I don’t think anyone should just be written off; however, your change cannot afford negative energy or festering resentment that slows or stalls progress. It only makes everyone else have to work that much harder to do what needs to be done. Rather than just wholesale firing, I would suggest you have a frank and open conversation with resisters about what you perceive to be their reluctance. Objectively describe the behaviors that you have observed and explain how your observations lead you to feel that they are not "on board". Explain the impact this has for you, the company and your relationship with them. Then ask them what they think about the things you have shared.
Listen to what they have to say and accept their perceptions (basically, don't argue with them). After they share what they feel, acknowledge what they have expressed. Explain why the changes are important to them, to you (this is key) and to the organization. Then ask them how you can work together to make this transition successful. This is a collaborative process; and, you may have to negotiate some responsibilities so that they commit to their role rather than having it dictated to them. However, also be prepared for the reality that they may not want to be on board. They will let you know either way. If it is the later, you will be better equipped to make other choices so that you can all move forward; even if doing so means you go in separate directions.
It’s natural to want to retain everyone in your organization. You invest time, money and emotion in your employees. At the same time, everyone in your organization must remain flexible enough to adapt when necessary. Some people are really challenged to do this for a number of reasons that may not always be related to their job. You may not be able to get everyone to be a cheerleader for the effort; but, you also can’t afford to simply ignore those who resist. Invest most of your time and energy with those who are working with you. That is the best application of your time. However, you can help your change effort be more successful while keeping your resistance management time to a minimum by having an open and honest discussion with those who have not created any self-motivation to get things rolling internally. This action will help them to find internal motivations to make a change: either the one required by their role or finding a new one.
Learn more about how Barron PCS helps you increase communication effectiveness and change management skills to improve organization alignment. Visit our Improve Leadership Skills page; and then, contact us. We want to help you grow!
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The Heart of Change
This compact, no-nonsense book captures both the heart and the "how" of successful change. Organizations are forced to change faster than ever. What can we learn from their experiences? Kotter and co-author Dan Cohen reveal the results of their research in over 100 organizations in the midst of large-scale change. What they found may surprise you.