|Barbara Mintzer's Newsletter
The Power of a Vision... a Leader's Journey
I can't think of a better subject to write about at the beginning of 2005 than change. I am terribly saddened by the devastation in Asia from the tsunamis, and yet my heart is lifted by the reports of courage, resolve, faith and tenacity the people in the affected countries have shown to somehow get on with life in spite of the tremendous loss of lives and property. Charles Darwin taught us: "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change." As we start a new year, this would be the perfect time for us to assess how well we deal with change and, in particular, the uncomfortable period of transition that occurs after we say goodbye to the old, but before we are ready to fully embrace the new.
"It's not so much that we're afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it's that place in between that we fear...It's like being between trapezes. It's Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There's nothing to hold on to."
Many managers have shared their frustration with me when they try to implement change, and they meet resistance from their staff. The managers know their ideas are good; these ideas will help the company be more successful; and yet the staff does not show any desire to "buy into" the change. I believe you have to let your staff grieve for the old, before they will buy into the new, no matter how much better the new will be. Business leaders are learning that you cannot push people to change any faster than they are willing to accept the change. The following strategies will help you guide your staff through the transition process into acceptance of the new:
1. Allow your staff the time and space to say goodbye to the old. They have been doing things one way for a long time; they have a mindset and mentality that support the old. They need the time to talk it out, share their concerns, express their desires, and put closure on the old. You can help this process by calling a meeting of your staff for just that purpose. If you believe your staff would be more comfortable talking it out WITHOUT YOU, let them know. Tell them the meeting is for them, and if they would rather you not be there, so be it! If that is the case, designate someone on your staff who will be responsible to tell you what was said, without stating who said what. I know from my experience with many companies, if your staff has ANY issue of trust with either you or your organization, they will not say a word with you in the room.
2. If you find your staff is still resistant to change, it means you have not answered their non-verbalized question "What's in it for me"? Why should your staff embrace your goals and your vision? How will it benefit them to jump on your wagon? You must be able to articulate to your staff why it would benefit them to embrace change. If the change will require them to learn new systems and procedures, or it will require them to deal face-to-face with your customers and clients, they may resent having to do this, particularly if they are not receiving any more money for it, or any other tangible reward. This is where your visionary leadership skills come into play. It is up to you to present a vision to them that is so appealing and exciting, that they will want to get behind you and "go for the ride."
3. If that still does not work, consider having an outside consultant come in and present your vision and its benefits from a global perspective. I have done just that for a number of companies and, quite frankly, I have not said anything their manager could not say. However, I told the staff that they are not the only ones going through change, that many organizations and companies are going through the same thing, and I stated examples and told stories. I got the staff to see that they are not in an isolated situation, and they are not victims. Change is happening in every industry, and many people are having to say goodbye to the old ways of doing things in favor of learning new and improved ways of doing business. This transitionary period is often an organization's best chance for creativity, renewal and innovation. The ability to innovate and embrace the new is a benchmark of a successful organization.
4. Take an honest look at yourself to determine how you really feel about the change. A manager can talk himself/herself blue in the face regarding the benefits of a proposed change, but if he/she does not really feel good about the change, the staff will pick that up. They will sense there is an incongruity between what the manager says and what the manager feels, and they will always side with what they believe the manager feels. If you honestly have concerns or problems with a proposed change, talk it over wth the person you report to before you present the change to your staff. Have your concerns addressed, so when you speak with your staff, you can give them an honest assessment of what they can expect from the change, the good, the bad, and the ugly. When they sense you are being honest with them, they will be much more receptive to hearing and buying into what you have to say.
5. Clarify your vision so that everyone understands the need for change. Explain in detail what you vision for your company, organization or department, and explain why a new way of doing things is needed to achieve the vision. Use benefits statements to show exactly what the benefits will be when the changes are implemented. Give your staff a roadmap to follow. Show them the route to take, step by step, and most importantly, tie their individual contribution to the attainment of the vision. Each person on your staff will want to see how what they do contributes to the bottom line. Show them IN DETAIL. It may necessitate a power-point presentation on your part, or a one-on-one with each member of your staff, but take the time to show your staff in detail the connection between what you are asking them to do, and the attainment of your vision. Make them feel important and needed, and they will be much more willing to support you and your endeavors.
If you have any insights, feedback or strategies you use to guide your staff through change, I would love to hear from you. Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org If you would like me to share your feedback with the other readers of my Newsletter, I will do so. If you wish to remain anonymous, I will honor your request. If you wish to pass this Newsletter along to a colleague who may find it of value, feel free to do so. If that person would like to receive the Newsletter, e-mail me with the address, and I will put the name on my database. Happy New Year to you and yours ... may 2005 be a year of peace, contentment and fulfillment ... personally and professionally.
About the Author
Barbara Mintzer is a nationally recognized speaker and consultant with over 30 years in business and health care. She speaks from experience! Her how-to programs provide participants with immediately applicable skills and strategies for getting buy-in and commitment from staff and staying on top of their professions in today's competitive and constantly changing workplace. Barbara presents keynote talks and breakout sessions for international, national, regional and state Conferences. She also conducts management retreats and in-house seminars. She facilitates panel discussions and roundtables at the same meeting...a good investment for your meeting budget. To explore the possibility of having Barbara speak at your next event, or work with your staff/leadership team, please contact her office.