How many of us have experienced this scenario: your boss calls you into the office, sits you down and explains that something important to you is about to change…. The number of fill in the blank possibilities here are endless: Re-alignment of sales territories, assignment of additional responsibilities and staff, shifts or consolidations, and the list continues into the deep, dark cracks of the abyss.
Often, the conversation is paired with the following standard comments: “This is a real opportunity for you to stretch and grow”, “the expectation is that we must work smarter, not harder” or “I am counting on YOU to rise to the occasion”.
WHY is it that times labeled as a great opportunity feel more like your being “volun-told”? Next comes the stress of how to adapt to be perceived as being successful.
Why is it that you read articles on LinkedIn of how other GREAT companies are making GREAT changes with the support for their GREAT, highly aligned and well bought in employees? This situation is very real and quite frankly far too common.
So, what’s the secret to the goose who lays the golden egg?
One of the most critical elements in seeking buy in to change is to have both an understanding and the ability to articulate the What’s In It for Me (WIIFM). Far too often leaders and managers fail to fully understand the message themselves, in turn making it even more difficult to pass the vision along to the people on their team…. the individuals whom, in most cases are expected to delivery on the task at hand. And let’s be fair, if you dig deeper, it isn’t simply because they don’t want to ask (although this can also be the case), there are many reasons why employees leave meetings with the universal question “You want me to do what??” To name a few of the most common:
Fear of loss of power, status or responsibility
Lack of awareness for the need to change
Lack of confidence in the necessary skills to be successful
So how do GREAT leaders facilitate embracing change in a positive manner that will be profitable to both the individuals and the overall organization?
GREAT leaders become fantastic Executive Sponsors to guide meaningful and lasting change. This means they: stay engaged through the process, walk the walk, and demonstrate support in communication and action.
The most critical sponsorship activity is to establish the WIIFM for the audience and reinforce the message through Building Trust, Actively Listening and Effectively Communicating.
1. Build Trust by participating actively and visibly throughout the process. The presence of trust results in positive experiences.
Aid the sponsor in his/her role – the worst possible scenario is that the employees feel the change has been adopted without the appropriate level of feedback.
Where it is suitable, engage employees. Involvement and empowerment in the process are organic ways to build trust and gain buy-in.
2. Listen to the Feedback, Response and Cues of how the change is progressing. The presence of active listening results in opportunities.
Listen and understand objections – a common pitfall is to start with persuasion, which feels artificial and salesy. When persuasion doesn’t work, the next escalated tactic is usually a threat, which fosters negativity and can feed conflicting emotions with personal values.
Listen to what is not being said – a common pitfall is to jump to a root cause assumption of the issue and provide a solution that won’t fix the problem.
Listen intuitively to obstacles, as the arise, don’t assume, ask.
3. Communicate Directly and Openly with employees: Understand there is a difference between communicating knowledge and communicating desire, both are critical in messaging. The presence of effective communication results in engagement and the ability to influence in a positive manner.
Communicate alignment with the organizational and employee vision
Communicate a personal appeal – why do you believe in the change?
Communicate what needs to be done. Often, organizations focus so much on designing the messaging for the change, the marketing and the benefits, they lose site of one of the most critical element: what do the individual employees need to do to effectively implement the change?
What does the data show and how can I start more effectively managing change NOW?
Executive Sponsor effectiveness has a direct impact on whether or not projects meet objectives. Projects with extremely effective sponsors have met or exceeded objectives more than twice as often as those with ineffective sponsors.
To start NOW, organizations can make considerable shift by implementing simple yet powerful displays of sponsorship:
1. Continuously assessing where individuals are relative to the change: Is their buy-in and alignment High, Medium or Low?
2. Identifying hot spots: Place where the following 3 areas overlap:
Trust- Lack of trust
Listen- Insufficient feedback loop to ensure individual concerns are being heard
Communication- Absence of productive communication
3. Reinforcement of the change and the messaging – Reinforcement is often lost when organizations move through change.
Connect with Paige Whitmire at www.cognitive-change.com to learn more on the topic of Effective Executive Sponsorship, and look for my new book in March 2017: Success in the Face of Change