As a leader, like it or not, you are in the change business. You are leading people to a new and better future which means that things will change on that journey. If they don’t, you will certainly never reach your desired outcomes. And even if you are trying to preserve the status quo for your team, you realize that the world we live in won’t really allow that to happen anyway.
So, as a leader we must always be thinking about how we can gain people’s acceptance and engagement in a wide variety of changes in order to make that desired progress. The problem is, that is hard enough when trying to change ourselves; change a group is far more complex.
Last week, I wrote an article which asked, What is Your Change Personality? My point was to help us realize that we don’t all see change the same way (duh!), but to also put some words and easy-to-remember labels on some of these change personalities. Today my goal is to translate that information into some suggestions to help every leader lead people with these different change personalities – because like most all clothes, one size does not fit all. (For a description of the personalities, go to the previous article.)
Now let’s talk about how we as leaders can understand these personalities and honor their perspective (rather than judging them). Why should we make that effort? So that we can speed the acceptance and adoption of any change initiative. In other words, it is worth the effort.
The Eager Beaver
The Eager Beaver is on board for change early, and so you want to give them the chance to try new things. Recognize that their initial resistance will be the lowest to change, and so they can help you build momentum for the change with others in the group. The challenge with the Eager Beaver isn’t getting them to test the change; it is encouraging and equipping them to be change agents to encourage others to come on board – and to keep them from jumping to the next new thing before you have successfully implemented the current change.
The Evangelist’s passion for the change is palpable and valuable – and that passion can also get in the way of helping other people engage in the change. Encourage the Evangelist to be more patient with others, and ask more questions in order to understand their concerns and challenges and not just talk louder in showing their support for the change effort.
The High-Pressure Salesman
Most everyone likes to buy things, but few of us like to be sold. I imagine just reading the phrase “high-pressure salesman” might have raised both your blood pressure and your defenses. The High-Pressure Salesman believes in the change, and that is great. Counsel them not to push, but to engage others and show them why they love and are excited about the change. The pressure is reduced the minute the sales-pitch becomes a true conversation, whether the topic is a new car, or a new change effort. (Tweet That)
The Patient Pacifist
The Patient Pacifist won’t be the first one to embrace your change, but they won’t rock the boat either. If you are patient with them, you will likely be rewarded with their adoption of the change. Give them information, give them examples of others who have succeeded, and keep them informed as you bring others along. Since they don’t want to rock the boat, they will be more willing to hop on the boat as more people are already there.
The Fact Lover
Clearly, the Fact Lover loves the facts; so as relates to the change you are promoting, give them those facts! Provide them with details, offer additional resources, answer their questions, and also let them share their findings with others. While like every other human, the Fact Lover won’t decide solely on the logic, they place the most value on the data and logic behind the change. They might even tell themselves and others that emotion won’t play a role in their decision – keep their perspective in mind and give them what they need to help them conclude that the change will be for the better.
Note: if you are an Evangelist or High-Pressure Salesman by nature, you need to be especially careful to not let emotion play the lead role in helping The Fact Lover choose the change.
The History Professor
The past is the past, but the History Professor will know the past relating to this change. They will know when we have tried something like this before. Know the details and be willing to share them. They might also make assumptions about the current change that might not be accurate because they have identified this change as “just like” what was tried in the past (whether successful or not the “last time”). Let the History Professor share their experience, and then focus them on the lessons from the past – asking questions like, “What can we learn from the past to get us better results this time?”
The Alarmist sees the change and thinks the sky is falling – in other words their first reaction is to think about all the problems or risks with the coming change. While this tendency might be disheartening and sometimes drain the energy of others involved in the change, their risk assessment can be helpful. They may think of things you would have missed; now you can address those before they become a problem. Be careful not to dismiss their concerns as “over-reacting” – their view is their view. Plus, when you can systematically help them see the way past their concerns and worries, they can be among the staunchest believers in the change.
Some people, like the Ostrich, would rather ignore or deny that the change is coming at all. When working with the Ostrich, be patient but firm. Help them see the change as real and not something that will “bow over”. Ask for their concerns and then help them see a vision of how it will be better once the change has been implemented.
While you cannot create a complete framework for leading change in 1,100 words, this set of ideas, connected to people tendencies/ change personalities, can give you guidance and some tangible steps for helping people engage with and embrace change sooner and more effectively.