Sometimes we have to motivate the people around us to change. Maybe there’s a behavior that needs to stop (or start). Maybe together we need to embark on a new journey. Could be something minor, could be something pretty significant. Either way, we do others a disservice when we assume that everyone will respond to a given change the same way. It’s not reasonable to assume that you’ll respond to a change the same way I would. Nor is it reasonable to assume that I’ll respond to a change the same way as the person standing next to me. Here are four simple techniques that might help different people navigate through change.
Approach 1 - Be Visual
Paint the picture of how great it will be, especially for your optimists, for your gregarious types who love to be around others and would love to be inspired by the greatness of what will come. Paint a visual picture, using words, or drawings, or a whiteboard, or whatever it takes to say, “think of how great it will be when we get there!” Find a handful of words that you can use over and over again to create the picture. Use words that you know will appeal to that person’s sense of optimism and delight.
So, let’s say for example that a behavior change that you’re looking for will result in less effort in the long run. Paint a word picture of how great the new changed state will be. Describe the way they will walk a little taller, no longer weighed down by the added stress. In a few words, describe the extra moments they’ll have in a day, to say hello to a stranger or connect with an old friend, and to delight in all the other things they like to do. Give them a goal, and inspire them to change with you by holding tight to that goal.
Approach 2 - State the Action
Simply state that there are no other options. It’s interesting how some personality styles respond really well to the simple, succinct statement of what needs to be done. My dad was a military man, and we moved every 9 to 18 months growing up. To get Dad excited about the move we would paint a picture of how great the new opportunity was going to be. But for Mom, she responded best when Dad simply said “I have my orders. We’re moving.”
Some of us don’t like to draw out the emotion. Some of us don’t like to talk about feelings at work. Some of us would rather focus on the task at hand without the noise or distractions of other things. If there is no option but to simply do what we’ve been asked, then state that. “Let’s just do this.”
Approach 3 - List the Steps
Lay out the next steps in some sort of logical or linear fashion, to help take some of the guesswork out of it. Even if you don’t know all the details, create a narrative, a step-by-step, that lays out a clear and logical plan for those of us who will change more easily if we know there’s a plan.
For example, let’s say that as a department we are implementing a new system and tool for our day-to-day use. The road ahead will include heavy testing of the new system with our data to make sure it works. And that will be followed by comprehensive training for our department, and even deeper training for one specialist within our team who will help us navigate through the uncertainties. We already know the system will be shut down for some period of time, and then we will go live with the new system on a Monday morning, with the old system still running in the background as a fail safe. Describe that to those who need the process laid out for them. Even if you don’t know exactly when the cut over will happen, or how the training is going to occur, or who the designated expert will become.
Approach 4 - Walk With Me
Demonstrate that you’re willing to take my hand and walk alongside me in this journey. Regardless of whether we prefer solitude or togetherness, most of us need to know that our leader (or the person who is asking us to make this change), is walking with us along the way. I am far more likely to change if I know you’re doing it too, and that you’re navigating through the same difficult things I’m going through, and that you’re handling it with grace.
Let’s say, for example, that we’re moving to a new facility, or that we are redesigning our interior office space to become a more collaborative working environment. Let’s make sure that applies to all of us. Show me how you as leader are living out the changes that you’re asking of me. I don’t need you to be perfect, but I do need you to make an effort, and to demonstrate a willingness to suspend your own comfort for the good of the team.
Now, let me be abundantly clear; not everybody responds equally well to all of these styles. Someone who likes to have the vision of the great future painted for them may not also appreciate being “told what to do.” If you’re navigating through change with a large group of people, you would be well-served to anticipate that different people have different needs, and to have a plan that allows you to support them accordingly.