Tom Salinsky writes...
A lot of the problems which my clients face with personal impact relate to change management. As the Bringers of Change, they want to be clear and authoritative and they want to be friendly and empathetic – both very good instincts. They are often quite unprepared for the lack of trust and suspicion which greets them. Their clarity and authority is seen as ruling by fiat and their empathy is seen as patronising. This frustrates the Bringers of Change immensely. Why is everybody so suspicious and defensive? It’s not like things are changing for the worse – on the contrary, things are changing hugely for the better! Why can’t they just listen?
And so, heels are dug in on both sides and the change process is about as painful as it could possibly be. What’s the alternative? What more can the Bringer of Change do?
Well, empathy is more than a pleasant smile and some blandishments about “knowing how you’re all feeling.” It’s genuinely understanding what change is like from the other side and acting on that information. For you, the change is all good. For them, it’s bad simply because it’s change. Is that unreasonable? Put like that, it might sound it, but here’s another way to think about it.
Possibly you’ve done some home improvements recently. Maybe you’ve had a new kitchen put in, something like that? If so, it was probably very disruptive. You have to live without a kitchen for several days, maybe even a week. You have strangers tramping in-and-out of your home. They cut off your water, they cut off your electricity – and so on, and so on. But probably you were able to bear the disruption, because you felt in control of the process. The choice of kitchen units is yours, and you know exactly why you chose them and how much better your new kitchen is going to be as a result. The timing was yours so as to keep the disruption to a minimum. And you know exactly who to speak to and what action to take if things don’t go according to plan. And that’s your version of your change plan.
Now imagine that one evening as you relax watching the TV, there’s a knock at the door. A smiling young man tells you that you have been selected for a free kitchen upgrade and installation will begin immediately. Before you know what’s happening, workman start marching into your home and removing your crockery. If you protest, the smiling man tells you people are usually delighted when they hear about their new kitchen – but you don’t want to hear the details of the new kitchen, you just want these people out of your house. And that’s their version of your change plan.
That’s who you are – a smiling agent of chaos, uninvited, unwelcome and that’s why your reassurances fall on deaf ears. If you don’t recognise this version of being an agent of change, it’s probably because you got it right – you started telling the story of change early, you clearly stressed the reasons for change and the benefits, not from your point of view, but from theirs. You consulted frequently, minimised disruption and communicated any changes or delays promptly and without evasion.
And people probably still grumbled, but hopefully they grumbled a little less.