Here comes a change. Your people react, many not positively. What’s a leader to do? How about a few moments of reflection? Okay, you say, but what am I supposed to reflect on. Try this model.
Your reflection needs to consist of identification and action planning. Since people’s reaction to change puts them in one of three categories, your actions need to be targeted for each group.
First, identify the Evangelists. These are the people who get the change, support the change, and will sell the change to others. These people need information, support, and encouragement. They are often employees without position power but with tremendous personal power within your organization. As such they often work layers away from you and you many not actually know them or interact with them directly, but you need to figure our how you can, in a meaningful way, become more connected to them! If your organization is of a size that you can’t be as visible as you’d like, get creative.
Next, find the Saboteurs. These are the people who will openly or subtly work against the change. They will not respond to information: yet another recitation or explanation of the process that led up to the ultimate decision. Those who are open about their resistance are easier. They need to be firmly confronted with facts and reality. “I realize you’re having difficulty with this change and I have listened to your objections, however, I need you to understand that it is the route we’re taking going forward and I need you to get on board.” is the message that needs to be consistently delivered from by you and all the members of your Leadership team. And by consistently, I mean over and over again.
(Note: this message only works if you have, in fact, listened to their objections and factored them into your decision making process. If you haven’t – back to the decision making drawing board and shame on you for not doing your due diligence before launching this change.)
The underground saboteurs are tougher. First you have to find the pockets of resistance. Not for round up and punishment, but so you can smoke them out and deal with them. This group needs to hear a variation of the same message. “It has come to my attention that you’re having difficulty with this change. Let’s talk. What is it about this change that you’re unhappy with?” Then be quiet and make them articulate their objections and concerns. Often, like a bully, when asked to articulate their position, they’ll retreat. At least you’ve let them know that you know what their behavior is.
Finally, you’ll have the Aclueistics. These are the people who don’t have a clue and don’t even know there are clues to be had. These people need to educated, big time. In today’s business climate, can your business afford to pay people who have isolated themselves from the environment around you? Can you afford people who are surprised when change happens? Be certain that you haven’t created an organizational climate that says it wants Smart Employees, but treats people in a way that creates employees that are house broken. (Thanks to Dr. Karl Albrecht for sharing that brilliant, to-the-point metaphor.) To lesson the numbers in this group, give yourself and your Leadership team marching orders. “Part of our job is to make certain all our people have the opportunity, the resources, and the encouragement to learn about who we are and what we do, what our customers want and need today as well as tomorrow, and how our organization fits into our industry. Show me your action plan for making our people smarter.”
Remember, reflection is the start. Action is where things happen. When resistance to change appears, and it always will, one-size-fits-all actions won’t work. Your job as the leader is to know your team so well that your actions-to-implement list will meet your employees where they actually are and be effective. As you implement your well thought out, creatively designed, and consistently measured Action Plan, you’ll be building an amazing bonus – trust. That trust is like having a big-balance bank account, available for use when the next change comes along.