A key task you will likely have experienced as a leader in the workplace is helping team members to embrace and grow through change. This can become challenging when we slip into the mindset that says, “people hate change.”
People don’t really hate change. This is a myth.
Think about it…
In this blog post, you’ll discover how to get your teams to go from resisting to embracing change. You’ll understand how fear of change is false, what powerful leaders get right and how mitigating loss inspires a much more positive mindset towards change.
Heifetz & Linsky are proponents of a model called Adaptive Leadership, where the role of the leader is to “help individuals and organisations adapt and thrive in challenging environments”. They note that what makes a situation challenging is often that it is novel and so requires change…or adaptation.
Whilst exploring change and adaptation, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that not all changes in the workplace are met with resistance, dislike and fear; some are readily embraced. So, what’s really behind those instances of negative response to change?
The truth is, what your people actually fear, is loss. In the debunking examples given in the introduction to this article, the changes that proved that people don’t hate all change involved individuals gaining something. In cases where money, social interaction and meaningful work are seen as potential or likely gains, there is less likely to be resistance to change. Where the individual stands to lose (or perceives the risk of loss of) something of importance to them, change is met with fear and vehement avoidance.
Perceived loss for your teams might look like:
Let’s pretend its 2017 and, as the leader of your team, you propose downsizing the office and getting more employees to work from home. It’s a great idea, because it cuts overheads, saves on the commute and encourages people to be more succinct in their communications. Now that its 2021, we know it’s entirely possible – and even beneficial – to work in this way. But your average 2017 team may have responded with intense resistance to this change. That resistance would have been based on perceived loss.
So, what losses were the 2017 team worried about?
The list of worries that 2017 team would have had, could be endless. And, whilst we’re sitting in 2021 thinking that perhaps these worries were unfounded or that we’ve conquered them, the reality is that one of the biggest challenges leaders face is that their teams may not always articulate their resistance to change. They may worry about being vulnerable, ignored or may not yet be self-aware enough to know what they are feeling.
Your task as a leader is not to force change upon your team and steamroll a vision forward. Your role is to empathise, identify the risk of loss in the workplace and mitigate the effects. Your powers of emotional intelligence are what is most important here, rather than the technical skills of management.
You can only identify issues, stakeholders and mitigate losses with a good perspective. Get on “the balcony” at the start of the process and stay there; to keep a clear view of how the change is being delivered and received at all stages. This way you will be able to quickly identify any hiccups that require you to go back a step; are there any new issues, stakeholders or losses arising that weren’t accounted for at the start of the process?
The reality is, in life and in the workplace, change is constant. Your teams need to be able to get to a place of embracing change for your organisation to have maximum impact in the world. Adaptive Leadership and being able to mitigate losses is essential to this. Some of the essential behaviours of successful Adaptive Leaders are the ability to facilitate honest discussion using coaching and active listening, the ability to articulate a positive vision and the ability to empathise with your stakeholders.
The Self Leadership Initiative believes that everyone has the capacity to embody all of these behaviours and that every team deserves to reach a place of loving change. But you may currently be feeling like you need some support in developing those abilities and your teams’ positive response to change. If that sounds like you, get in touch today to discuss the opportunity to book in bespoke leadership training with The SLI.
Heifetz, R. A., Grashow, A. & Linksy, M. (2009) The Practice of Adaptive Leadership – Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organisation and the World. Harvard Business Review Press.