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Don’t Forget the Most Important Part of Change – People

on June 1, 2019

As a company working with leaders and their organizations on change efforts for more than 30 years, we are often brought in after their own change efforts haven’t taken hold or produced the results they expected. Why?

You know your company better than anyone. You spend most of your time thinking about the performance of your business, functional areas, or your teams. But at certain times, you recognize you might need an expert in a specific area of your business – someone who can provide an outside perspective. You might bring in a consultant or expert to craft strategies for the business, spending millions of dollars on a plan without blinking an eye.

But when it comes to ensuring a strategy or initiative comes to life and  is sustained past “launch”  leaders make a  fraction of the investment. By fraction, I mean less than 1%. Seems kind of crazy, right? Further conversation with leaders often reveals that they haven’t anticipated or budgeted for any additional expense to effectively bring their strategy to their people believing that they can just do it themselves.

Hmmm… Why wouldn’t you bring in an expert who specializes in this? Someone who knows and has a proven methodology that ensures strategic success? Not just success, but accelerated success.  Why would you take that risk? You wouldn’t!

Here are three keys to ensuring strategies and initiatives succeed:

  • Know It –In our experience, leaders tend to underestimate the ability of their people to make great decisions. What we’ve found is that when every person in your organization has the same data and information that leaders are using to make decisions, they are more likely to arrive at the same conclusions. We see tremendous “aha’s” from people when they have the information – “I finally understand why I’m being asked to do new or different things, and I also see opportunities where I can further adjust what I’m doing to support this change.”
  • Feel It – Real change needs to be grounded in understanding the reasons behind it, but maybe even more importantly, people have to feel passionate, excited, inspired, and motivated about how the change will benefit them and everyone in the business. This is why it’s critical that leaders are able to tell great stories – “With your help, we have tremendous opportunity to knock the competition down a notch.” Or, “On a daily basis, you are making people’s lives better.” Or, “With your help, our business continues to succeed and grow.”
  • Root It – When you craft an approach that appeals both to people’s hearts and their smarts, you are creating the catalyst for change.  One that accelerates initiatives, strategies, and results. The best way to do this is through compelling stories that capture the drama of your business, engaging visuals that show people where you’ve been and where you need to go, and importantly, having the two-way conversations that allow people to arrive at the same conclusions as leaders.

In many cases, taking the time to make sure you’re engaging people emotionally and intellectually can appear, to some leaders, as an unnecessary cost and effort: “Just send an email.” “We have already talked about it at the all-company meeting.”

It is actually much more costly in the long run to the business when leaders don’t take this approach. Ask yourself, “What’s the cost to the business if we’re not successful in achieving this change?” In many cases it’s not only about money, but also customers, jobs, relevance, and survival.

The leaders who have wrestled internal obstacles and gone to the mat on this approach, have seen those efforts pay off in spades. Their companies have seen rapid and measurable results. It meant the difference between just surviving and being the market leader.

Change requires commitment, focus and a process that gives every single person in the company a connection to your big-picture strategy or your critical strategic initiative. It requires organizations to empower managers with the capabilities and knowledge to coach individuals to support that change, daily, weekly and monthly. It requires leaders to get past their underestimation of the power of a front line. And above all else, it can’t be done without connecting the hearts and the smarts.

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