“Change is disturbing when it is done to us. Change is exhilarating when it is done by us.” – Rosabeth Kanter
I’m fortunate to spend a lot of my career with leadership teams who are working on the future of their organizations. We’ll talk about products and people and competitors, about growth and profit, etc. – all kinds of interesting things. After a bunch of discussion and thinking and facilitation, usually the group will come to some kind of consensus on strategy and change and how to execute. And when things get difficult, they’ll usually say something like, “Remember what we’re trying to accomplish” to help remind them why this is so important and to help themselves stay focused and energized.
And that’s great. Unfortunately, some of them then go back to their organizations and tell everybody there what’s going to change and why. Which sounds like a great idea – except that your “Why” might be absolutely meaningless to your people.
Think about it – how much strategy and how much change is based on company growth, or company profitability, or something like that. Then ask yourself how fired up employees get about increased company profitability. The reality is that most employees hear “increased company profits” and think “bigger salary for my boss”. Do you think that motivates them? If you do, you probably need to get over yourself. They don’t think you’re that great.
So when you’re communicating what change needs to happen, you have to communicate why it’s important for them. What are they going to gain by helping implement this new thing you’re doing? Will their jobs be easier? Will they have more fun? Will they get to learn something new? Maybe they’ll get paid more, but can you show them? Whenever leaders say that increased profits mean you the worker will get paid more, the workers tend to be a little skeptical.
You need a big percentage of the people in your organization to get on board with change. If they don’t, you won’t have a chance. Before you get started with some fantastic-sounding change initiative, figure out why they should care. If you can’t, they won’t.