Most people don’t like change. We build familiar routines and resist disrupting those habits unless we are convinced that the change will benefit us. In the workplace, this tendency can make it difficult for leaders to implement new policies and procedures, even if these new ideas will bring improvements in the long run.
So how do leaders overcome this resistance to change? The answer may be more basic than you think.
I recently led a project to update our company’s contract management and invoicing system. This seemed straightforward: make it easier to track hours, expenses, and invoices while providing the flexibility we need for growth. However, it quickly became clear this wasn’t going to be as painless as anticipated.
The biggest benefits of the change were only going to reach a small number of people, primarily our office manager and upper management. The rest of the team was forced to learn a new system and deal with the hiccups associated with a new software rollout in return for no immediately apparent reward.
How did I overcome this challenge? By applying four simple techniques:
- Create a shared goal: Spend time defining the old process and its pain-points for all involved. Once I shared this information with the team, everyone saw value in improving our system.
- Collaborate on a solution with everyone impacted: Once people want improvements, actively seek their input and “test” ideas to see how they affect the team. This process not only uncovers their concerns, but it also allows everyone to have a voice in developing the solution, which increases overall buy-in.
- Communicate the proposed solution and benefits: Propose a solution that solves the original issue and addresses everyone’s concerns. While change is rarely pain-free, by clearly showing how the proposed solution meets the shared goal, the change seemed worth the effort.
- Celebrate the minor successes along the way: Keep track of who is responding well to the change and recognize them for their efforts. In the first few weeks after we implemented the new system, I offered help to those who weren’t responding well and recognized and thanked those who embraced the change during meetings with peers and management. This subtle action motivated everyone and accelerated the change.
While this example may seem simple, the same principles can be applied to larger projects. Just remember to create a shared goal, incorporate the perspective of everyone involved when exploring solutions, and communicate how the solution will address the goal and impact everyone involved. And don’t forget to celebrate the small wins along the way.