Whether it was to modernize processes, “lean” your office or shift focus to become more competitive, many of us have tried to change our businesses for the better. Success usually hinges on how much buy-in you have from your team. If they don’t believe in it, it’s not going to work.
Effective change isn’t imposed; it’s cultural. Getting everyone on board isn’t a question of what you tell them to do, but how much you listen to their perspective on how to adapt. Here are some tips on how to get everyone buying in to your change initiative:
1) A to Z Communication:
All change is disruptive. When it’s afoot, rumours about what’s happening in the corner office ripple over email and text messages. People get nervous, they whisper about layoffs and if the processes they’ve done daily for years will change. Will they have to relearn everything? Will they be phased out and replaced? What is management’s vision?
Gone unanswered, office whispers are like water on a mountaintop. They will seep into tiny cracks, freeze, and cause an avalanche. Explain your vision to your team before the rumour-mill starts.
Be prepared to answer questions about why change has to happen (please do it with more vision than improving profit margins). We’re creatures of habit, and the more effort you put into allaying (and not minimizing) office fears, the more buy-in you’ll get.
2) Be In-tune:
In a workplace where nothing changes, managers sometimes tune-out the daily ups and downs of what staff are going through to focus on “big picture stuff.” The trap we fall into, however, is getting used to not paying attention and missing shifts in team mood.
To engage your team in change, you need to be sensitive to the mood in your workplace. Engage your team members, both formally and (most importantly) informally. Listen to their feedback and take their concerns seriously.
Effective change is about engaging your skeptics as much as your champions. A team member who feels left out or threatened can derail the whole process, but take the time to hear their opinion and they will start to come around.
3) Your Business is not a Machine:
Your company isn’t a machine, and creating a culture of change isn’t about recalibrating it to perform a different function. Businesses are the sum of the people who show up every day and collaborate towards a common goal.
Effective managers don’t instruct how change is going to happen, they inspire it. Instead of trying to reprogram your staff with high paid speakers and long winded emails, get into the cubicles and onto the shop floor and integrate yourself in a team of peers all striving towards a common goal.
If your peer members feel that embracing change will provide them more purpose in their jobs, they will surprise you with their initiative. If they feel like you’re trying to impose change onto them, however, they will shrink back to becoming cogs in the machine.
4) What are your Obstacles?
No matter how ambitious (or not) your vision is, there will be obstacles. Take a step back to look at your project with a 10,000 foot view. Try to anticipate the barriers waiting for you and create actions about how to pre-empt them.
Your change project is going to start with a burst of enthusiasm. It feels great, but don’t get used to it. At some point, momentum is going to turn to slog. It’s going to get hard, so hard it may feel at times that it’s not worth doing. Having a plan for confronting barriers will help keep you confident about your goal and, by extension, will keep your team motivated.