Your team listens with enthusiasm. Everyone is nodding their heads. THIS sounds amazing! Finally a leader who knows what needs to be done.
When the meeting ends, your employees head back to their desks, don their earbuds, and continue the same work they've been doing day in and day out for months. They await further instruction. All the while, you await change.
You may be introducing a technological advancement, a product enhancement, a new process, a different structure, a different market, or any other type of small or large change. Maybe the culture is toxic, the market is contracting, or your customers are your newest competition. No matter what you are facing, there will always be a group of people who will need you to spell it out more clearly for them.
I've worked with companies large and small, all over North America. Whether you are selling office furniture or mining diamonds, you're going to face resistance to change.
Resistance to change? Let's not be fooled. There will only be about 5% of your company actively opposed to the change you are trying to introduce. The rest just aren't changing.
An object at rest will stay at rest. An object in motion will continue in motion indefinitely. So how do you get a group of people who are not in motion with your new strategy to stop what they are doing and roll onto the new course?
If your employees didn't implement the strategy you wanted, here are the 3 reasons you can blame yourself.
1) You Didn't Tell Them
Step 1 in implementing a new strategy is to communicate the change. Too many managers think they can make a simple announcement and the troops will march to the drum in complete and total synchronicity. Maybe in the military, but not in corporate North America.
In the world of marketing, we know that it takes seven to twelve points of contact before the receiver of your message starts to pay attention. If you haven't found at least 7 different ways of communicating your strategy, or the change you wish to see implemented, then you can take full responsibility for this: You didn't tell them.
2) You Told Them - They Didn't Absorb It
Step 2 in implementing a new strategy is to allow employees enough time to absorb the change. Imagine that each of your employees is a sponge. Some sponges are highly absorbent. Others seem to repel moisture. Until you've worked the sponge in, it just seems to stay dry.
Helping your employees absorb your message requires some thoughtfulness and patience. The biggest reason people don't absorb information is that you haven't given them the time and space to ask thoughtful questions about it.
It is your job to force moisture into the sponge. That means scheduling Q&A sessions with employees and management. That means asking tough questions like "What is your reaction to the change?", "What do you think will be the biggest roadblocks we face?" and "What do you like most about this strategy?"
Most importantly, don't let people off the hook without asking questions or making comments about the strategy. Until they can put their feelings and thoughts into words and share them with you, they haven't absorbed the change... and there's no point moving to the next step without that element in place.
3) You Didn't Let Them Plan
Step 3 in implementing a new strategy is to let your employees shape the change. People want to feel they have some control over their destiny. People want to know exactly what they have to do to be successful. And most of all, people want to believe they have the capability to perform the tasks you are asking of them. People need confidence and clarity.
Without dedicated action planning time amongst employees, your message is just words on a page. There is no motion to them. It is your job to ensure every team who has something to do with implementing the change has had the opportunity to think through and create the steps they will need to take to be successful. This is what creates motion on the new course you have charted for the ship.
Turn the Ship
When you chart a new course for your team, you will undoubtedly face reluctance. The biggest resistance you will face, however, is inaction. To create action, you must:
1. Communicate the change
2. Let people absorb the change
3. Help people shape the change