“People are set in their ways, closed minded, and are mostly unwilling to listen new ideas. You just have to accept that and prove them wrong.”
These are the words that a consultant recently spoke to me. Personally, I struggle with believing this. I don’t like to pigeon hole people and make those kind of dangerous judgments. I’d rather believe that people are smart, innovative, and unlimited in their approach, and mostly determined to be successful.
Old Dog – New Story
If you work in an environment where people repeat the same processes over and over (which is most places) you’ll notice that asking them to do something differently often results in a blank stare. It’s not their fault though; they’ve been successfully doing that task a certain way for a some period of time. Asking them to change that routine is like asking them to take an unnecessary risk.
Who wants to take an unnecessary risk?
This is why story matters. Asking people to change something without carefully helping them to rebuild their story is a surefire way to get resistance.
Every person has a story for every task they do. Whether it’s a story about why you drink your coffee a certain way or how you fold your pants, even YOU have a story that leads you to take an action (or not take an action).
Three Ways To Help Rebuild A Story
My prescription for slicing through resistance to change doesn’t require a knife. It does however require listening, patience, creativity, and flexibility. Check it out:
- Start with a question. Why do “we” do it this way?
- Explain why a change is needed. Let’s face it, if there is no reason to change, then nobody wants to. “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it comes”, to mind. And, “because I said so!” isn’t explaining. FYI-
- Ask for innovation before prescribing the cure. Nobody wants to be ordered to do something. What’s worse, if you are having to order something done, it’s probably not the best solution anyway. Ask the people doing the task for a better solution. You’ll likely find that their solution is better than yours would have been; give it a chance to work or fail.
- Implement slowly. Small incremental changes are usually easier than large wholesale changes. If their solution isn’t as aggressive as you’d like, be patient. Keep pushing the envelope, but be patient.
- Reward new behaviors. There are lots of ways to reward people. Whether you are in a leadership position or not, letting people know when they are doing something good really isn’t that hard. Just be sincere, appreciative, and timely.
Question: How else can you melt resistance to change?