I’m leading an organisational change programme with users and employees who oppose it. What can I do?
- Understand their fears
Our brains are wired to keep us safe and to respond to potential danger. Faced with a change, such as a new process or even a new office layout, our instinctive reaction kicks in; we know what we have, but we don’t know what we will get. Some may fear losing status, belonging or competence; others that they will not be able to adapt to the new ways and that’s understandable.
- Don’t broadcast, communicate
People don’t want to be sold to or manipulated; they want honest communication and are able to see through messages that are disingenuous. Engage emotionally with dialogue – listen to each person’s concerns, which is the opposite of ‘selling’ and ‘persuading’ someone.
- Create forums to build buy-in
Run workshops where ideas can be debated in a wider groups; use surveys that elicit opinions from staff; set up discussion forums. But avoid letting initiatives become mechanical - there need to be ways to process people’s feelings once they’re aired so keep it smooth and authentic.
- Build a vision for the future
Leadership is about taking people forward to a new place. What is the project trying to achieve? Why is a new process or system required? How will things work afterwards? What opportunities arise as a result? Corollary: why is the status quo not an option?
- Be honest about the gaps
If you don’t yet have all the answers, be honest and say so rather than saying nothing – or pretending that you know how everything will unfold. If you are genuinely open to answers, the four steps above might help you arrive at them – bringing employees with you on the journey.