How can we encourage & equip people to embrace change?

by Jo Ann Sweeney - 13:33 on 20 March 2013

Enabling people to connect with change is part of our role as leaders; one we fulfil when we persuade people to take a risk on the future and step out of their comfort zones.

But of course many don’t want to change because they perceive the effort involved is greater than they are willing to make. They’re in a groove and comfortable.

So before they will take the needed step out into the unknown, their intangible and subjective perception of the risks involved has to dramatically shrink.

This is where communications comes in. Here are some overarching questions I hope will help you begin thinking about how to shrink perceived risk in your organisation.

Your responses will give you a framework for explaining the change you want to see.

Why should people pay attention when we ask them to change?

Here we identify the challenges and issues inside our organisation and externally that are making it difficult for people to do their jobs. The things that frustrate them; that they are passionate about; that they talk and complain about.

When we acknowledge these issues and their impact now and in the future people will pay attention. After all, from their perspective the organisation is at last talking about what’s important to them.

What are we offering them?

This is a clear, bullet pointed A-Z of what they will get probably under the three categories of resources, knowledge and new skills. It should be in the language that they use so they can relate to what they read and hear and so they perceive what is being offered as tangible.

What benefits will changing bring them?

How changing will make life better for them, especially in resolving the challenges and issues they face. Perhaps it will be easier to contact customers, close sales, get invoices paid quicker, or access information.

Whatever they are, these benefits need to be concrete and directly relevant to what people do in their jobs day in, day out. They should also be things people will get excited about.

Who else is involved?

Some background on your sponsors and why they support the change, plus the people involved in leading the change. Quotations from the horse’s mouth always help.

What specifically do we want them to do?

We may be aiming for them to become more knowledgeable, or more supportive. Or we may want them to change the way they work, or relate to customers.

Whatever our purpose, we need to be clear from the beginning and in agreement. Then we know what we are aiming for, can explain to our audiences what we are asking of them, and can see whether or not we achieve this aim.

How do people like to receive information?

There are so many ways of connecting and sharing information now, each has pros and cons and audiences usually have preferences. They may prefer online, social media, face2face or print, contemporary or traditional, formal or informal.

Much more likely is that they prefer variety and respond to a mix. Whatever their preferences are, we should build our communications plan around them.

An academic and business coach at St Georges University of London asked this question during the Worth Working Summit 2013.

Though this year’s summit is now over, you can still join the discussions at our LinkedIn group Worth Working For. Please do join us and share your views.

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