In order to be effective as a Change Agent, it’s not only critical that we are viewed as being aware of how our change will impact a given stakeholder’s daily life. We also need to be seen as being empathetic to the stakeholder’s frame of reference.
In the most effective Change Agent-to-Stakeholder relationships, this pattern holds true in the both directions. Each side listens to understand and each side communicates to be understood.
This is Megan.
She works at Wooglin’s Deli & Café in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Megan took our order the other day when I went out to lunch with a client. She kept a busy line of customers moving along and got our order perfectly right. As far as business process effectiveness goes, Megan nailed it. We also noticed that she was very patient with a few customers who had a hard time deciding what to order, so she did great on the empathy side as well.
Setting Expectations: One more thing stood out during our brief time at Wooglin’s. The deli has a sign posted near the ordering station which set an appropriate tone for the 2-way nature of the Customer / Service Provider relationship. In unapologetic terms it says:
“Be Nice or Leave. Thank You.”
Rather than playing nice from one side of the counter and just hoping the other side would respond in kind, they cut to the chase and set a clear expectation for customer behavior. More importantly, Wooglin’s staff backs it up by displaying that behavior themselves.
The bottom line for Change Agents:
Giving each other respect is the first step in gaining two-way empathy.
It has been my experience that stakeholders will gradually come to accept most changes if people are:
- … shown respect by those guiding the change,
- … given enough information to help them understand the logic for the change,
- … and offered enough time to develop empathy for the organizational rationale that’s driving the change.
Summary: Next time you have a chance to interact with your stakeholders in writing, in person or via any communication method, consider their frame of reference first and show them the same respect you hope they will give your change message.
Questions for Chatter:
- Have you ever been “turned off” by a change just because of the disposition of those who first presented it? (rude, bossy, unyielding, etc.)
- How can a Change Agent recover from an initial bad experience when “breaking the news” to a group of stakeholders about a big change?