Some change is small and incremental. Others are bold and unsettling—a shift in strategy, a major acquisition, or an organization-wide restructuring, to name a few. Leaders must know how to sell these game changers to their employees or risk getting bogged down by uncertainty and active resistance. Here’s what to do.
- Analyze the need for change. Don’t just regurgitate superficial explanations about strategy and the economy. Dig deep into what’s driving the change so you can argue convincingly that it’s necessary. A sudden drop in revenue can seem like a temporary blip to your workforce, but the loss of a significant portion of your market due to new technologies may require dramatic action. Employees will respond when they see you honestly laying out what’s at stake.
- Evaluate your current culture. Workplace culture is a product of history, evolution, and the individual personalities of the people who work there. You can’t assume that what worked in one organization will take root in your own. Spend some time thinking through where your people have come from and what they’ve gone through. You’ll do a better job of positioning your brand new strategy in terms they’ll accept.
- Personalize the stakes. Change means different things to different groups and individuals. Some worry about job security, others bemoan the amount of work involved, and still others are genuinely concerned about the future of your company. Find out what employees are focused on, and tailor your approach to fit their positions. A generic, one-size-fits-all argument won’t be as effective as a series of targeted, meaningful reasons why change is imperative to everyone’s future.
- Tell stories. Facts and figures go only so far. You and your fellow managers up and down the org chart should engage employees with human-size stories of what change means. Talk about how your organization has grown and shifted since its beginnings, and what might happen if change fails—and what will happen once you’ve succeeded. Stories can bring the issues to life in ways that a pie chart can’t.
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