Don’t fix it if it isn’t broken. How many of us have heard this in our lifetime? This ideology stunts growth and innovation by keeping people attached to inefficient processes. It invokes fear of change and uncertainty of what a different future may hold.
Humans are, by nature, creatures of habit. The majority of us like routine and comfortable with knowing what to expect. So change doesn’t always come easily to those set on maintaining the status quo. Change threatens to throw off the equilibrium that some people have worked to maintain. It is much more comfortable to live in the known, even if people are not happy with their current reality.
Change resistors in organizations can slow down any momentum built up around implementing new processes. They often have an emotional response to change, creating drama and trying to get people “on their side.” If you find yourself in the midst of drama and needing to lead others through change, here are four tips to ensure a smoother process and a more successful outcome.
- Clear communication
The old adage, “communication is key” continues to ring true when it comes to implementing new processes. When change comes about, many people get caught up with what is happening and lose sight of the reason why it is happening. Leaders should clearly communicate everyone’s role in the new initiative and explain the benefits of the change. Connecting each individual to their impact on the project gives them personal accountability to see it through.
- Be empathetic, not sympathetic
Sympathy is the monster lurking in the shadows ready to derail change management. Good leaders genuinely care about their team members, making it difficult to see one struggle with change. But responding to an employee’s concerns with sympathy only further leads that person down the rabbit hole.
When attempting to ease an employee’s concern about a new initiative, statements made by the leader such as, “I’m not too happy about it either,” or “This is something corporate is making us do, so…” communicates the message that he or she is not in support of the change, so why should the employee be? Instead, meeting resistance with “What can I do to help you?” lets employees know their leader is there to support them through the process and creates action to keep moving the project forward.
- Work with people who are ready and eager for change
It’s easy to be drawn to people who are struggling with change, as they can be a significant barrier to progress. Leaders can focus an unnecessary and unproductive amount of time trying to align change-resistant or even negative mindsets with an initiative. This can derail a project’s momentum and create a toxic environment full of stress.
A more valuable way to achieve a successful implementation is for leaders to devote their efforts to working with those who are willing to do their part. Champions of change should be supported and exemplify personal accountability to the project.
- Hold people accountable
Accountability is an important value to uphold when managing a team. Setting expectations and promoting personal accountability creates a culture of responsibility and ownership. Accountability can be a powerful motivator for people to perform, pushing the initiative forward and driving results.
Change requires someone to fundamentally alter the way they do something. Depending on how long someone has been performing a certain task, completing it could be second nature thanks to muscle memory. A person’s brain becomes trained to do something a certain way and they do it, even if it is inefficient or causes trouble in other areas.
Overcoming change is a process and requires new habits to be formed to align with organizational objectives. It takes thorough planning, and focused time and effort to implement a new initiative in a way to successfully deliver on the expected outcome. Leaders play an exceptionally important role when implementing change in their organization. Strong leaders support and encourage their employees to adapt, knowing the organization will be stronger as a result.