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4 steps to paving the way for change

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in Leaders & Managers,Workplace Communication

Few people like change, yet you have to lead people through it. Here are four strategies to make the emotional and cultural hurdles less wrenching:

1. Bring them face to face with the external pressures. Your people have to understand how the marketplace is evolving and how they can help the organization keep up.

Example: XYZ Co. used small group meetings to apprise employees of rapid changes in its industry’s cost structure and demand. These meetings opened employees’ eyes and helped them shift from a “blank check” mentality in which cost didn’t matter to a leaner mind-set with fewer staff and top-to-bottom accountability on costs.

2. Engage the change zealots. People who “own” change act as role models. Identify them early among your staff and drive change together. Although both the early adopters and the resisters will influence everyone around them, keep in mind that as change agents, you’re already demonstrating the organization’s future operating model.

Example: At XYZ, the marketers started asking the research and development and operations people about costs as soon as they began exploring new product ideas. The shift showed the firm’s new seriousness about cutting costs.

3. Manage people’s feelings. Help them deal with their emotional reactions and decide whether they can thrive in the new environment.

Example: Booz Allen Hamilton research on severance-package acceptance rates shows that when the magnitude of layoffs and the scope of change are clearly communicated, more employees accept voluntary severance.

4. Support the change with new tools and systems.

Example: A bank built on selling and processing loans shifted to selling noncredit products. It created customer-profitability models to help the sales force identify the best accounts, score cards to monitor changes in sales behavior and incentives for selling the new products.

— Adapted from “Four Antidotes to Change Resistance,” John Jones, Claudia Staub and Elizabeth Powers, strategy+business.

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