One of your toughest challenges as a business owner is to get your staff to pay more than lip service to the need for significant change. As Gregg Crawford warns in The Last Link: Closing the Gap That is Sabotaging Your Business, “Don’t confuse the appearance of change with the reality of change.” He says change sticks only once the components of the change become norms—”the way we do things around here.”
How do you make that happen? Crawford’s advice includes:
- Face the pain: Your employees won’t embrace change until you admit that your company isn’t doing some critical things right. Too often there’s an unspoken rule that managers don’t want to hear the truth. You won’t get anywhere unless you’re prepared to take an honest look at what’s not working, probe for the truth and listen to ideas and opinions that you might not like.
- Create a sense of urgency: Identify a challenge or crisis that shows why the status quo is no longer an option. Your profits might be shrinking, the competition might be beating you up in the marketplace or a new technology might be rendering your product or service obsolete. Get your staff’s adrenaline pumping by clearly demonstrating the nature of the challenge the company faces.
- Be able to articulate your vision for the future in less than five minutes: Make your plan for change brief and to the point. If you can’t communicate where you’d like to take the firm in less than five minutes, your vision is too complicated. To help get it down to that length, think about how to express it in a simple story rather than through charts and diagrams.
- Overcommunicate: State the need for change often and consistently. Make your messages interesting and provocative. Help your staff see the connections between what they do and the change you’re seeking. Performance appraisals are a great opportunity to talk about how an employee’s behaviour helps or undermines the vision.
- Figure out how you’ll deal with resistors: Expect that some of your staff will resist change and plan for that. Instead of ignoring or trying to overpower resistance, seek it out and bring it into the open. Resistance that goes underground is tough to fight. But resistance that’s articulated, that has a face and an agenda, can offer you valuable perspectives. Let the resistors’ views inform how you manage change and the pace at which it proceeds.