It was March, 2009, and I was on a phone call, pacing the floor, trying not to lose my temper. A group of three people were asking me to make a change I felt would lessen the value of our solution. Every time I explained why I didn’t agree, two people just kept stating facts, like, “The assessments have improved when we’ve tested it.” I just kept getting more and more frustrated, and giving my own evidence to support my point of view.
Then, Mike Norman, my boss, walked the talk and applied Dale Carnegie’s Human Relations concepts. “Michelle, I totally see why you feel so strongly about this. What we do is important, and we don’t want to lessen the value of the Carnegie Experience. What if you give this an honest try. I trust you. If you give it an honest try, and still feel this way, I will stand behind you, we will go to corporate and state our case.” It was amazing how quickly I calmed down and agreed! It’s important to recognize that I agreed to the change because Mike genuinely empathized with me.
I am sure you have been in a similar situation. It can be hard for us to make changes, even when the evidence tells us the change will be very good for us. As a leader, who needs to get buy-in for changes, this can be frustrating! We can have many, many, many logical discussions and people still won’t make the change. The sooner we realize that resistance to change is emotional not logical, and we acknowledge that emotion – the sooner we can help usher change acceptance in.
Here is a different approach. Instead of getting stuck on the “why won’t they just do it?”, let’s start by changing our own mind set. Accept the push back. Expect it. Know that most of the time, it has nothing to do with logic, and that is OKAY! When our audience pushes back, we need to remind ourselves they are not calling us a ‘bad’ team member, employee, boss, friend or parent. Our team members are just humans, reacting like humans react, when asked to make changes. And, who knows, maybe we will find an even better idea because of the push back.
Step #1 – Accept and embrace the resistance.
Before we start talking about the change, get to know your audience. Learn what is important to them. Ask them questions to discover their values. Find out how they have reacted to changes in the past, and learn how they adapt. Determine, and agree upon their strengths.
Step #2 - Become genuinely interested in them.
Now that we know our audience, it will be easier to determine how the results of the change will benefit them. What is in it for them? Answering this question will allow us to arouse in the other person an eager want. We will also be able to determine the frustrations and challenges they may need to work through. Remember, all of the challenges will not be logical, and that is OKAY.
Step #3 – Try honestly to see the benefits, and challenges, from the other person’s point of view.
After completing step #3, we have earned the right to Communicate a Change to Engage.
Step #4 – Talk in terms of the other person’s interest.
- Remind yourself of Step #1
- Start with the benefits of the change, to your audience.
- Explain the change
- Give evidence to support that making the change = benefits for them
- Connect the required action with their strengths.
When they resist…
- Genuinely acknowledge the frustration and challenges they are afraid of.
- Connect the required action with their strengths, again.
Of course, I will wrap up by recommending How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. The perfect book to help you engage people in change, and create an environment of change readiness.
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