How that adoption process unfolds can differ quite a bit from person to person, but almost everyone can benefit from interacting with a peer who understands their challenge.
It can be even more helpful if that peer has already dealt with some of the issues and concerns brought on by the change.
In the past, I’ve illustrated the personal change adoption process using a “change curve”.
Poking around this website, you’ll find several articles on the topic. I’d encourage you to check out these three:
1. Everybody’s Got One: There truly are a thousand change curves out there, and most of them have some clear common sense and/or science behind them. In this post, I go into a more full description of the change adoption curve and various versions you might see: http://thebigrocks.com/curve/
2. Not So Fast: Here I list several assumptions to watch out for when guiding people through the change adoption curve: http://thebigrocks.com/change-curve/
3. Leading Through the Curve: In this article, I give practical steps that leaders can take to leverage their unique role to help their people adapt to change: http://thebigrocks.com/change-adoption/
Helping other people through the process can be nearly impossible if we are floundering ourselves.
This is the premise of the discussion I started in the past article base on the advice that Change Agents should “Secure your own mask before assisting others”.
The first five tips I covered were:
1. Dig In.
2. Feel It.
3. Question Things.
4. Do Your Homework.
5. Be Skeptical, Until You are Ready to Be Supportive.
Today I’d like to offer five more ways to get our own house in order prior to taking on the challenge of helping others.
6. Balance Patience with Impatience: Change is hard, so be patient with your teammates as together you define the future and build bridges to help people get there. But also keep up your own individual change adoption pace.
Try to get ahead of the change so you experience the emotions, the challenges and the positive feelings of successful change adoption before most others. Imagine you are working your way through a dark forest where others will be guided by you as they look ahead to see your bright flashlight and hear your encouraging voice. (I’ll revisit this topic at the end of this article…)
7. No Guessing, No Smoke & No Deception: It’s almost impossible for one Change Agent to know all there is to know about the change they represent – especially early in the process. So be very careful about how you account for the areas you don’t fully understand yet.
Resist the urge to throw up a smoke screen or take a guess at answers to tough questions. Imagine what could go wrong if your answer isn’t exactly true, or you suggest that those impacted by the change will receive some form of help that doesn’t materialize. Many times your words will be interpreted as promises!
Remember: everyone will be filling in the blanks as they are exposed to the change and we don’t want to have to back track and unwind any misinformation.
8. Consider Other Frames of Reference: Once you have a good handle on the change from your personal frame of reference, start exploring what the change will mean to others. How will their roles change in ways that yours may not? How can you help them get started? How can you gain insight into their upcoming adoption journey?
9. Give Feedback: As you adapt, make sure to share your experiences with the Change Team so they can improve the approach they’re using to implement the change with everyone. It can be especially helpful to participate in pilot projects and offer feedback as a “guinea pig” during early phases of a change implementation.
10. Tell Someone What You’re Up To: When you are good and ready to join the team as a Change Agent, make sure people know you are one of the “Go-To People” for the change. Offer to help others and collect their feedback.
Share information as you get it and keep tabs on things your peers struggle with. There is a certain sense of accountability that comes with voluntarily admitting that you are part of something. That accountability will come in handy as you seek to build trust among your stakeholders.
In Summary: “Be Quick – But Don’t Hurry”: That’s a famous quote from the late, great UCLA basketball coach John Wooden. He used to tell his young players that they should balance their energy so as to have a sense of urgency as they play the game, but not play out of control.
The same holds true for Change Agents. They should jump into the change adoption process earlier than the folks they intend to help. They should maintain their own personal momentum as they move along through the change adoption curve – but not rush along so fast that their own adoption of the change isn’t honest, sincere and realistic.
Remember: Pollyanna is not invited to this party.
Questions for Chatter:
- Ok, so as a Change Agent, I jumped in early and I am doing my part to get ready… What happens if I discover a serious flaw in the change approach? Should I keep moving forward or stop my adoption process?
- What should I do if I have been tossed on a Change Team but my boss isn’t giving me time to prepare?