If employees are going to respond to the strategic priorities and change initiatives that matter, they have to know certain things. The cause of failure for so many change efforts and botched strategic plans is too often attributed to staff members who “just weren’t on board” or who “didn’t get it.” While this kind of scapegoating is sometimes accurate, I believe that leaders need to take greater responsibility for these unsuccessful efforts. The need to communicate the context and rationale for any critical priority is the sole responsibility of the leader.
Here is a summary of what every employee must know about change (if we want them to support it):
- Where is this coming from? – Leaders must identify the source of change in order to provide context about the level of influence and control the organization has. Externally oriented change is harder to manage because our ability to influence it is decreased, while internally driven change is often accompanied by greater flexibility and influence over how and when it is implemented.
- Why should I care? – Leaders must establish relevance and inform people about how the change will help with their concerns and problems…why it is relevant to their own individual/team situation…and why they may want to participate in the process (i.e. to get invested in seeing it through).
- What is the pace of this change? – Not all change is urgent and essential, so leaders must help people calibrate their response proportionally. By setting the right tone, leaders encourage responses to change that match the intensity of the change event. Leaders can also respect others “speed limits,” which is each person’s comfort zone with regards to the pace of change.
The fastest way to fail at implementing something new is to leave people wondering why something is relevant. When some kind of change initiative comes down the pike, it will usually be rejected if it does not directly connect with people’s needs. In addition to answering the three questions above, leaders need to spend as much time as needed to immerse people in the context of change so they can truly say that: This change will help with my problems! I see the relevance of this change to my own situation! I have been asked to participate in the process, so I’m invested in seeing it through!
Sostrin Consulting’s methodology for spotting change barriers and helping leaders to plan, implement, and manage change can help leaders to focus on what they can do to influence their future. Learn more about our customized consulting here.