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July 3, 2012

12 Steps to Introduce Change to Your Employees

“How NOT to introduce change” was the topic of a previous post. So how should you do it? Follow these steps. I’ll elaborate on these in upcoming posts.

  1. Treat change as a shift in your business culture.
  2. Take leadership. Don’t leave it to others.
  3. Do your homework before you start.
  4. Involve all those affected.
  5. Apply the Problem Solvent.
  6. Build acceptance, starting with allies.
  7. Address questions, concerns, and objections.
  8. Tackle resistance.
  9. Watch for the hidden barriers.
  10. Stick to it. Don’t get sidetracked.
  11. Know when to change course.
  12. Declare completion.

I’ll talk about these in upcoming posts, but I’ll start here with #8, “How to tackle resistance to change,” because that’s what the most people ask me about.

How to Tackle Resistance to Change

When you introduce change to the people in your organization, you can count on questions and resistance. Even making minor changes: “All I wanted to do was change the type of fluorescent bulbs we use; I had no idea this would rouse such heated discussion!”

How do you tackle this resistance? Here are a few guidelines from my “Twelve Steps to Successful Change” from my new ebook.

Resistance comes from supportive and well-meaning people—it isn’t necessarily antagonistic. It can come from long-time employees, your partner, spouse, co-owner, or even from you. Yes, you! You, as owner, are an enthusiastic backer of the new system. You want the benefits, yet you resist the change and become part of the problem yourself. If your people sense this, then you give them tacit permission to vacillate and backslide.

Can you spot these negative reactions to change? How will you address them?

• Inertia. Any change is resisted. Its value must be proved.

• Not invented here reaction. “If we didn’t come up with the idea, it can’t have much value.”

• Busy-ness. “It sounds great, but we have way too much to do already.”

• Bad timing. “We can’t do this just now. We need to wait until after the summer season.”

• “It’s just another whim of the boss. If we drag our feet, she’ll get tired and forget about it.” This is an important comment on your management style.

• Fear. “I’m afraid I’ll be held accountable for all of these tough things in the future.”

• Resistance to your mandate. You think you are asking, “Will you do this, pretty please?” while others hear you demand, “You will do this!” Perception is reality!

How can you create allies from people who are initially indifferent or against you? By heeding their concerns, and producing positive results.

Resistance with a smile. Some people will smile and say, “This is a great thing.” But then they will pick it apart and criticize you behind your back. For example, a long-time loyal employee may subtly resist things you want her to do that push beyond her comfort level. These might include mastering a new technology, adopting new systems, logging time or activities, supervising others, or even participating in the coordination meetings for the big transition.

This puts you on the spot. You are loyal to her but you can’t let her dictate the pace of change. She has done her job well up to now but now the job requirements are changing. Can she adapt? Is she willing to learn? How can you make it easier for her?

Her initial resistance may melt away once the change is made and positive results are apparent, but it may not. She may not be happy with the new responsibilities, and on top of that feel guilty for letting you down. She may well be happier elsewhere.

The Foot Draggers’ Club. Some who resist turn out to be saboteurs. Unfortunately these might be long-time employees. They may pay lip service to the change yet drag their feet to the extent that the process is endangered. They may seek out others who don’t want to change and reinforce each other in their resistance. Their hidden agenda may be to prove that the new process won’t work so you will go back to the old way of doing things. It is dangerous and debilitating for you to allow this to spread. In most cases you will have no choice but to get rid of such people.

You can find the whole program laid out in my new ebook “How to Introduce Change to Your Employees” on Amazon for Kindle or iPad. A very affordable $2.99.


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