- Work with the group. In a variation on an old song, “Love the ones you’re with.” Understand what drives them. Ignoring the group’s dynamics will doom your change.
- Explain why and how. Asking people to change is scary. The least you can do in return is lay out honestly what will fail if things continue the way they are and, conversely, what will improve if the change works. The most consistent mistake leaders make is underestimating their staffs’ fear and resistance.
- Explore their points of view. Your biggest leverage will come from understanding what employees have vested in the status quo and what self-interest they would have in making the change. It’s a no-go unless you can offer a meaningful incentive.
- Build trust. The worst thing you can do is manipulate the group. Some bosses pretend to listen to employees, having already decided what they intend to do, but people know when they’re being jerked around. Another dead end is involving them only in negative changes. Leaders who reserve fun projects for themselves but direct employees to find massive budget cuts are not going to win points.
- Compromise. Approach change without give-and-take and you might as well kiss your project goodbye. The result will be angry or passive acquiescence. “Whatever you say, boss” will get you just that: whatever.
On the other hand, engaged employees will suggest enhancements. Aside from your customers, they’re the most affected by it and have a stake in correcting it. Show your gratitude that they care enough to speak up.
- Follow through. People trust actions, not words. They’ll quickly tire of abandoned initiatives. One well-researched, slow project is worth a bevy of breathless announcements.
- Reward change the right away. Don’t wait for completely changed behavior. Jump in with reinforcement at the first sign of change.
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