By Bridget McCrea
Anyone who tells you that they like change and enjoy being jolted out of their comfort zone is probably fibbing, or trying to cover up a real desire to just get in a rut and stay there. After all, humans tend to resist change, and nowhere is this more evident than in the workplace. There, routines, everyday habits, and set-in-stone methods tend to reign. These realities can present some pretty significant roadblocks for leaders that want to infuse even the smallest changes into their corporate cultures.
“The basic rule of psychology reveals that individuals and groups will change a behavior, action, or opinion for one of only two core reasons,” says Jeffrey Magee, a leadership and marketing strategist and publisher of Performance/P360 Magazine in The ABCs of Managing Change for Performance Impact. “Absent either one of these two basic rules, human nature is to resist change and remain complacent.”
Pleasure & Pain
To avoid challenge, conflicts, and confrontation—or worse yet, find themselves “in a world that has passed you by and all but made you obsolete”—Magee says electrical distributors should focus on the two reasons that people do change. They are:
The “Pain” Factor: If you illustrate to others that by not adapting or adopting to the new change approach (idea, policy, program, person, campaign, law, rule, regulation, way of life, etc.) their life style will decline, get worse, become pained, or they will have a loss, injury, or death, people will acknowledge and embrace the new or change item.
The “Pleasure” Factor: If you illustrate to others that by adapting or adopting to the new change approach (idea, policy, program, person, campaign, law, rule, regulation, way of life, etc.) their lifestyle will improve, get better, become easier, or they will have a gain or positive experience, people will acknowledge and embrace the new or change item.
It's also important to remember that change, at least in its early stages, is more about awareness than anything else. Make people understand why the change is needed, how it will be orchestrated, and what it means for them (i.e., in their respective roles), and the change itself will be easier to achieve.
“The first step is psychological,” says Magee, “and it's the first thing that any distributor or manufacturer must take. Whether you're in client relations, inside sales, counter sales, or outside sales—and B2B or B2C—basic awareness is the best starting point.”
The 5 Ws and the H
When working with companies that need help with change management, Magee likes to talk about the “Five Ws and the one H,” or the “who, what, where, when, why and how.” He says distributors can use this simple phrase to ferret out areas of the company that are in need of change, and then make employees and managers aware of this need (and, subsequently, make the change). Who's doing what? Who is the buyer? What does he or she need? And, who is the decision maker? Magee says these are all good starter questions for a company embarking on a change management path.
“Using the Five Ws and one H you can come up with dozens of strategic questions whose answers will help you gain market and/or people awareness,” says Magee, “whether your goal is to hire, maintain growth, motivate workers, etc. It's about gaining awareness of how you're going to change the marketplace.”
Specific to distributors, Magee says this fact-finding mission can help companies dissect their customer bases and do a better job of serving them. This is a particularly important point in today's business world, where e-tailers like Amazon and general-line distributors like Grainger are eating into regional and smaller players' revenues and profit margins. Magee says simply understanding which companies still want to come into a physical location, have a cup of coffee, and talk about the “latest and greatest” products—versus those that would rather just place and order from their iPads and be done with it—is important.
And it all starts with awareness, says Magee, and the knowledge that without the right intelligence, knowing when and where to open a new branch, invest in a new e-commerce storefront, or hire new employees is nothing more than a crapshoot.
So, how can distributors use the concepts of “pain and pleasure” to get employees and managers to buy into their new ideas and embrace change? Magee says that for change to take root and matter, change must include:
Awareness: First, make sure everyone involved in the change process is made aware of why this change is even being discussed and why it is a reality to be addressed. Only when your brain is made aware of a need, challenge, problem, opportunity, etc., will it embrace doing something about it.
Interaction and Understanding: Second, make sure you and those to be involved in any change process have the skill and knowledge set to address what comes before them, and the desire and attitude to want to assume a participatory role.
- Commitment: “People will only engage and participate when they see that the change really does matter and that by embracing the change life will be better and that pain may in the long run be eliminated or avoided,” says Magee. Recognize and reward participants appropriately if you want change to become a reality factor in your world, whereby people do not resist it but accept it.
- Acknowledgement: “Hostile change challengers a lot of times seek to be recognized for where they mentally are at the time of a change matter,” says Magee, “and their fear or lack of feeling of being recognized has lead them to learning from past behaviors that the route to acknowledgement is to be hostile.” The faster you empathetically acknowledge them, creates the opportunity to now engage them and invite them to participate in the change process.
- Ownership: Once you and others step to the acceptance plate of the change matter as that of being the new reality, the faster others will come around to your thinking and positions.
- Action: Change happens when someone starts by taking action.
As a final tip, Magee says electrical distributors should carefully examine their leadership development and employee engagement programs (or, approaches), to ensure good communication and collaboration—both of which help to support and cultivate positive change within organizations. And don't forget to explore your employees' key drivers and how those drivers relate to intended change(s). “Understand your team and what its drivers are,” he concludes, “and then create a change management program that speaks to those drivers.”
McCrea is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net.
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