You’ve likely heard the adage, “Change is the only constant in life.” Well, the same is true for business. The ability to acknowledge, understand, embrace, and actively participate in change is essential to the success of individuals and organizations during challenging times and in times of success.
Psychology reveals that individuals and groups will change a behavior, action, or opinion for one of only two core reasons (avoiding pleasure and seeking pain) which we will discuss shortly. Without one of these two reasons, human nature is to resist change and remain complacent. As a result, leaders often find themselves struggling to impose change on their team or employees, leading to resentment, poor performance, and loss of revenue.
Before we discuss how to make change more palatable in your organization, let’s examine why so many people resist change and refuse to acknowledge its importance. Many individuals have learned how to play the system to avoid the work associated with change, yet reap the benefits. Others suffer from complacency and a lack of urgency. The reasons run the gamut of excuses; however, they often reveal an internal psychological need for:
Acknowledgment = Hostile change challengers often need to be recognized for where they are mentally during a period of transition. Unfortunately, their fear or lack of recognition leads them to fall into old behaviors, believing that the route to acknowledgement is acting out. When you acknowledge them, you create the opportunity to engage them and invite them to participate in the change process.
Ownership = Further denial and resistance occur when no one assumes ownership during the period of change yet points fingers at everyone else to do things! Once you and others accept your role in the transition, the faster others will come around to your thinking and positions.
Action = Change happens when someone starts by taking action. Any action! Without this action, change becomes nothing more than an ongoing discussion.
In order to accept change gracefully and become active participants, people want to be understood, respected, and involved.
Now, how do you help to avoid challenges, conflicts, and confrontations when introducing changes? Consider these two psychological catalysts:
Pain Factor = Human beings are motivated by the avoidance of pain. When you illustrate to others that if they do not adopt the upcoming change (idea, policy, program, person, campaign, law, rule, regulation, way of life, etc.) they will experience pain (often financial), loss (of job or Ego), injury, or death, people will more quickly acknowledge and embrace the change. Their resistance to the idea will decrease, and you can focus on how they can embrace and actively participate in the process.
Pleasure Factor = If you illustrate to others that by adapting to the new change, their situation will improve, people will more quickly acknowledge and embrace the change. Consider this the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) principle.
For changes to take place, individuals and groups must work through three need states. Regulate how you communicate, what you communicate, and to whom. Communicate sequentially to ensure everyone works through the process chronologically and you gain non-confrontational feedback throughout the period of change.
Awareness and Acknowledgement = First, make sure everyone involved is aware of why this change must occur. Only when your brain is made aware of a need, challenge, or, opportunity, will it embrace doing something about it. Without this critical step, you will face resistance and denial throughout the entire process.
Interaction and Understanding = Second, make sure you and those involved in any change process have the skill and knowledge set to address what needs to be done, and the desire to do it. Ensure all of the vested parties are equally involved and held accountable for the success of the change. This may include a conversation around resources, finances, human capital, and time constraints.
Commitment = Third, people will only engage and participate when they can imagine a world after the change has taken effect. They must understand that life will be better and that the long-term benefits outweigh the short-term discomfort. Recognize and reward participants who embrace the change and work with you to make it a reality.
To fast-track change in a world that may (for some) be moving too fast, consider these three models for performance execution (implementation) success and blend them into the new ABC (A+B=C) Model for Change Matters and what I refer to as the Trajectory Code. Consider:
- A = ACTIVATING event (and there will always be one) is the never-ending starting point.
- B = Your BEHAVIOR is associated or blended into the Activating Events that can guide you into a state of complacent behaviors if unchecked. This breeds habits that mold ones’ personal operational styles, which then feeds one’s (incorrect) emotional belief that they are at peak performance and doing everything right.
- C = CALIBRATED desired outcome, goals, objectives, success based off of measurable KPIs …
Whether your reality is the merger of organizations to survive and thrive in the future or blending your once solo abilities with another for combined synergy and success, these three paths will help you get there.
Change is important to any organization as it evolves. Get your team on board with the ABCs of managing change and learn how you can better engage individuals to help them embrace growth!
Written by Dr. Jeffrey Magee.