Change Agent Tip #33
Mitt Romney’s anti-climatic clinching of the 2012 Republican nomination earlier this week, along with Barack Obama’s 2008 candidacy, brings to mind an old saying about American presidential politics:
Republicans fall in line.”
Say what you want about the candidates, there’s something for Change Agents to take away from that axiom.
Change Agents need to recognize when to fall in love with their change and when to fall in line. Since falling in love is easier when the change is perceived as positive – and most changes have at least some positive elements, let’s start there.
In a nutshell:
“Change Agents should at some point admit their love for their change – or they will have a hard time convincing others of its merit.”
Why Get Mushy? Specifically, I’m asking you to fall in love with your change before you ask someone else to do so. In the case where your change is actually a good thing for those who are impacted, you can’t just hope they’ll rush to adopt it. You’ll still have to sell it – especially to the hardcore resistors.
Falling in love with a change might sound a bit overboard. But I use this language because the kind of demonstrated positive emotion it takes to sell change is hard to fake.
Accepting change can be difficult even if the change is generally believed to provide significant positive benefit.
Why is that? Here are a few possibilities:
1. Change is Hard Work: Going through the effort of preparing for a change (attending training, practicing the new way of doing things, learning new ideas, letting go of familiar processes, etc.) can be hard work. Sometimes people put off things that require significant effort, even if that effort looks like it should yield obvious benefits.
2. The Old Way is Hard to Give Up: Even the worst of old ways has the benefit of being familiar. The receivers of your positive change might just find it challenging to leave a comfortable process behind. Change Agents often need to provide a little push to break stakeholders loose from their moorings so they can sail in a new direction.
3. Change is Scary: New ideas can induce anxiety until they are fully understood. Take the time to thoughtfully explain key concepts of your change and lay out what’s going to unfold as it is implemented and you’ll ease this stress.
4. New Things Can Be Complicated: Make sure you fully understand the change before you start trying to bring others along. Do your homework and get your own questions answered so you’ll be ready to help others.
Adopting any change can be tough – even if it’s a good change. But none of the reasons I’ve listed above constitute grounds for rejecting a positive change. They can each be worked through using simple Change Agent techniques paired with a genuinely positive attitude toward the change.
It’s So Easy That It’s Easy to Miss: It should be easy to spread good news. But Change Agents often run the risk of making the adoption process more difficult than it needs to be for stakeholders by simply forgetting to be consciously positive and upbeat about what should be a positive and upbeat situation.
So get your pitch ready – and go for it. Be ready to rattle off the benefits. Be ready to describe the future. Be ready to list all the good reasons why you’ve already accepted the change and why you are now publicly supporting it.
Check Yourself: Be positive – but make sure you are also being fully honest! Regular readers of this blog know I’m not a fan of blathering, insincere, “pump-up” speeches that are thin on facts and ignorant of the challenges a given change will bring.
Change Agents should gather valid, positive data about the change and work through their own concerns before they get in front of stakeholders to “sell it”. They should also ask around to get ideas of where stakeholders may be experiencing concerns, so these can also be addressed with clear answers.
Being genuinely upbeat about a mostly-positive situation can have a huge impact on people’s first impression of your change. It can also help them get motivated to start preparing for the change – even if their initial reaction was skeptical.
Don’t Be Shy: Don’t miss this easy Change Agent task. Gather the facts and get excited about the good aspects of your change. As long as you’re honest about the challenges your change may bring, I see no reason why you can’t “tomber amoureux” and share that excitement with your stakeholders.
In my next post, I’ll address the situation where your change is not necessarily a 100% positive thing. In this case, “Falling in Love” might not work, so Change Agents may need to “Fall in Line” and help others do the same.
Question for Chatter:
- Have you ever been jilted by the empty feeling of a rah-rah speech that misrepresented the facts of a coming change?
- What kind of fallout can false positivity create?