People and Change: 4 Keys to Success

December 16, 2019

This post intends to name and minimize one of the biggest misconceptions about people and change.

Written for leaders and aspiring leaders, the article presents 4 Keys to successfully develop and support all people through change, no matter how simple or complex.

People Change

Since the beginning of time, humans have been faced with some pretty volatile, unpredictable, complex, ambiguous (VUCA) situations and environments. And not only have we survived, we have demonstrated a remarkable capacity for adaptation, resilience and great success.

Human are wired for change; we are always changing! Presently however, in work and in business especially, the pace and complexity of change have accelerated drastically and, more and more, it appears that people are having difficulty “keeping up” or “coming along”.

People Are Not the Problem. 

You may be wondering that, if humans are wired for change; why do so many people appear “reluctant”, “apprehensive”, “resistant” or outright “oppositional”, when we need them to change for something important?

The problem isn’t people. The challenge lies in a serious misconception many of us hold; it is a specific belief about people and change that causes the greatest difficulty.

You see, our belief about things, directly affects our effort and, our level of effort directly impacts the outcome. Take a moment to imagine something you would consider impossible. Now consider how much energy or effort you would invest in that something. Right, you wouldn’t!

Many of us were taught to believe in one of the BIGGEST and most problematic misconceptions about people and change – it is problematic, because if we truly believe it, our energy and investment are directly impacted!

The misconception?  People Fear Change.

Change is Not the Problem 

Over the last 20 years our teams have interviewed thousands of people regarding their experiences with a variety of complex and challenging changes. What we learned was fascinating and continues to inform our approach to working with people and change.

The specific change or circumstance, had little to do with whether someone was “motivated” or “oppositional” (or somewhere in-between) to the change.  As a matter of fact, a person’s level of enthusiasm or reluctance had more to do with their perception and/or the experience of the change. It was not the change itself!

So, before we go any further, it is critical that we get something straight:

People do not fear change! They fear how change has been, or might be, experienced!

People and Preferred Change: 4 Key Variables to Succeed

We’ve learned from countless situations that people who appear apprehensive, reluctant, resistive or even outright oppositional, often have a good reason for being so.

We started to understand that regardless of the diversity of people and complex situations there were 4 important learnings that consistently contributed to a positive and preferred change; no matter the person and no matter how complex the situation.

The 4 key variables are listed below and, offered with each, are important considerations for leaders and aspiring leaders to successfully develop and support people through preferred change.

1. People do well when they are supported by others who truly believe they can change.

It was stated earlier that, when we truly believe that people are growth-oriented, resilient and have the capacity to develop and change, they do well. If we don’t believe they are capable, our efforts to support will surely lack conviction, commitment and will be compromised.

Belief = Effort = Outcome!

Important Considerations:

  • Gut Check Time – what do you believe about this person, really. Do you believe change is possible?
  • Have you asked yourself The Billion Dollar Question, found HERE.
  • You are not responsible for the change, but you are responsible for creating the conditions and supporting preferred change.
  • Have you offered or provided encouragement and preferred supports?
  • Have you focused on their strengths and successes? Strengths offer the message that change has been done and can be done again.

2. People do well when the change is understood.

Sometimes changes have many parts or come at a pace that can seem overwhelming. What’s interesting is that almost all change is predictable, to some degree. Leaders have a responsibility to prepare people by helping them understand as much as possible, to the extent possible, about important changes.

When people understand, the what is changing, why it’s changing, when it’s changing, how it’s changing and how it might impact them and their role, they can anticipate and adapt accordingly.

Important Considerations:

  • Do you have the necessary information regarding the what, why, where, when and how of the changes?
  • Have you shared this, in detail with your team?
  • Have the communications about change been clear and consistent across departments and teams?
  • It’s not always possible to have or share all the information; so be sure to inform people clearly as to why you can or cannot share certain information.
  • Have you assessed whether individuals and teams understand the detailed information provided? How do you know they understand?

3. People do well when they are involved.

Involving people does not necessarily mean we let them make all the decisions. Most people, however, do much better with and through change when they feel a sense of control, ownership and/or a sense of personal responsibility.

Empowering our people is about giving them a voice and or a choice with, on or about important change. It is important to involve people with change, to the extent possible, always if, and when we can.

Important Considerations:

  • Have we provided people with as much information about the change? See above.
  • Have we provided an opportunity to ask questions and get answers that are important to them?
  • Have they had an opportunity to share their perspective and/or experience regarding the change?
  • Have they been given an opportunity to come to the table and support the change?
  • Have we asked our people to provide input, feedback or make suggestions for alternative perspectives and approaches?

4. People do well when the change holds meaning for them.

Meaning and motivation are inextricably linked. Where there is meaning, there is motivation to change, no matter how BIG or challenging the change.

There are 4 CORE source drivers of meaning and motivation. We refer to them as CORE 4; they are needs, values, goals and strengths.

We’ve learned that when change or the perception of change aligns or connects with an individual or group’s needs, values, goals and/or strengths, even just a little bit, they begin to see the meaning and value the change holds.

The key here for leaders and aspiring leaders, is to tune-into and have an accurate understanding of what is most meaningful for their people.

Important Considerations:

  • Learn about your people’s needs, values, goals and strengths as it relates to them, their relationships and their work (CORE Foundations was built to help ALL leaders with this).
  • Have we provided people with as much information about the change? See above.
  • Do our people understand the change; what’s the point and why in this way?
  • Have we aligned the change in the context of Vision, Mission, Values and Strategy?
  • Have we considered how the change might align with the needs, values, goals and strengths of individuals and/or the team overall?

When we believe that people can change; when they are involved; when the change is understood and; it holds meaning, they change!

Our experience has been that, when people are supported in the manner outlined in this post, they exceed what we thought they were capable of!

If you want to enhance your ability to support people and organizations through change, we’d love to help! Don’t hesitate to reach out. Please contact us for more information. 

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