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Engaging People in Duress Versus Engaging People in Success to Achieve Strategic Change

on November 6, 2020
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Over the last twenty years, my organization has had numerous opportunities to watch and participate in change efforts that have engaged the hearts and minds of people to deliver great results. We have also experienced the opposite – working on change efforts where people hold back, and hold up the important movements responsible for changing behaviors and driving business results.

After experiencing some of the best and worst examples of mobilizing people’s discretionary effort to lead change, build teams and make change personal, we synthesize our collective experiences down to a simple, reoccurring observation:

People don’t resist change. They resist being told to change or being changed by someone else.

The reality is that by engaging a person’s brain, we can unlock the belief that they matter, that their thinking can make a difference, and that they are vital to solving the strategic puzzles our organizations face.

We often see two vastly different approaches companies take to execute change through their people. One seems to be used by those that achieve success.

The other leads to putting people under duress – leaving leaders with little understanding about how to make their people the engine to moving forward. People at all levels respond best to the sequence labeled “in success” and rarely bring the best version of themselves to the approach labeled “in duress”.

Here’s why. The big difference is in what you tell versus what you ask!

The best way to engage people in a change effort is to give them an understanding of the WHY, then the WHAT, a road map to WHEN, and leave the HOW up to those closest to the work that needs to be done.

On the other hand, if you ask someone when their manager offends them most, the answer will likely be in the HOW stage. Most efforts to engage people to change that end up being unsuccessful tend to skip the WHY, the most critical piece of the puzzle.

They wrongly begin with telling them HOW to do what needs doing, and WHEN it must be done. Maybe, eventually, they get around to the WHAT, but not in all cases.

When you follow the SUCCESS approach – explaining the WHY, the WHAT, the plans for WHEN, and ask them the HOW, the results are consistently predictable: most people are going to be all in, their hearts and minds coming along on this change journey with you.

Is your change process going to see success or create duress? Tell us what you’re doing to engage your people’s hearts and minds in a change!

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