“You either think you can or you think you can’t – either way you will be right” Henry Ford is credited with this insightful observation of people’s response to the challenge of change. It shines a light on the power of mind-set and attitude when confronting change and gives us all a clue on how to take people on a journey from ‘I can’t’ to ‘I can’; and from ‘I won’t’ to ‘I will’.
When leading change your ears should always prick up if you hear ‘I can’t’ or ‘I won’t’ as a response to a challenge to change. The most productive response you can have is to be curious and don’t assume. What is needed? New knowledge and insight, or new behaviours and habits, or the will, desire and energy to change? Change Makers know the help they can offer is very different depending on the real cause of the resistance. Be careful though, as many people have a tendency to dress up emotional resistance in intellectual clothes, especially if the depth of the relationship you have with them is shallow.
The journey from ‘I can’t’ to ‘I can’ and from ‘I won’t’ to ‘I will’ is a mixture of confidence building , motivation and knowledge transfer. The response will vary depending on the nature of the resistance you face.
Habitual Resistors need motivation first then knowledge and support to give them the confidence to try something new. They take the longest to influence so start small, catch them doing it right so they build confidence and continue to support as they build new habits. In a change process these are the people that will remain sceptical the longest and can be useful in that they help identify pitfalls and risks that ‘Enthusiasts’ are prone to dismiss in their rush to change.
Knowledgeable Resistors can be the toughest of all to move. They expend a lot of creativity explaining why they cannot or will not be able to change. If they are in a position of influence within their peer group they have to be tackled. The importance of a higher purpose is key to shifting their perspective. If the strategic mandate for the change is immutable then this is the starting position you need to use. Keep your discussions future focussed and listen carefully to the rationalisations they use as they give you clues as to what it will take to change their position. Your arguments have to address their concerns if they are to move position.
Enthusiast they are the people Change Makers use to start the change process. Give me a group of enthusiasts and I will show you change in action. Enthusiasts’ seek out the knowledge they need and are willing to try and learn from experience, their enthusiasm can become infectious. The ‘watch out’ with this group is to equip them with the rational arguments they will need to convince others and rein in any excessive enthusiasm so they remain credible as viewed through the eyes of the resistors.
Change Makers they are the group that have the ability to lead the change. They have both the will and the knowledge to be able to credibly lead change in any circumstance. It is their combination of skills, knowledge and attributes that will mark out a Change Maker from their colleagues. They are both thoughtful and persistent and have excellent people skills that equip them to influence others. Interestingly they can be found in all levels of the hierarchy and any challenge to change can create an opportunity for their skills to shine.
If you would like to find out more about how to develop Change Makers in your organisation then please contact me I will be delighted to help.