Strategies For Managing Change in the Workplace

One of the strategies for managing change that many leaders aren't as skilled at as they could be is the process of helping people to visualize a brighter future.

You've seen it before ... A change (big or small) is introduced ... an announcement is made by a leader who outlines what the change is and why it is being put into effect. He or she finishes the formal announcement and almost immediately all the talk turns to the problems, the challenges, the reasons why this is going to be difficult and/or won't work.

And the feeling (more often than not) in the room is either (worst case scenario) fear and anger or (best case scenario) bemusement and/or indifference.

indifference to presentation Leaders should take their people on a journey
before getting into the mechanics of change

Do you know why this happens? Because leaders rush too quickly to the mechanics of the change, rather than taking people on a journey that engages them in the sense of what could be possible.

Begin With The End In Mind As You Frame The Story You Are Going To Tell

To get people excited about and engaged with the upcoming change, apply the tip shared by Stephen Covey in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People ... "Begin With the End in Mind".

When putting together any presentation (change related or not), most leaders have been brainwashed into using the dreaded "Powerpoint Bullet Point" style of writing down objectives and outcomes. This style of preparation will probably bind you to creating the norm in most organizations ... an announcement that is filled with a vague collection of concepts and ideas and is detached, stiff and has people hitting the richter meter of 'bored brainless', 'angry' or 'obstinate'.

Instead, as you are planning the announcement you will make to the team, visualize in a, vivid sensory rich way the specifics of how things will be different. Try telling a story about what the future holds ... as though it has already happened.

When you begin to tell the story -- rather than the bald facts -- your language becomes more compelling and people will begin to engage in the story - they will begin to see themselves in the future picture - not in the abstract and focused on all the problems or reasons why they should try to swerve this change.

Great leaders are highly skilled at doing this ... at telling a story that engages peoples' emotions. Do a search of the famous inspirational speeches that have changed the world. Read the speeches and see how these leaders weaved a picture that others could see themselves in, that inspired others to get behind the change. For example, take a look at JFK's 1962 We choose to go to the moon'speech. Look closely at the choice of words and the imagery he paints.

Framework for Creating A Compelling Story

Take the time to answer these questions and create a story that will help your people see themselves in the future ... in a positive way. Take them on a journey so they become excited and literally can't wait to get the chance to be a part of the change process.

  • What will you or others SEE once this change happens, that you're not SEEING now?
  • What will you or others FEEL once this change happens, that you're not FEELING now?
  • What will you or others BE DOING once this change happens, that you're not DOING now?
  • What will you or others HEAR once this change happens, that you're not HEARING now?

Thanks to my good friend and performance measurement specialist Stacey Barr for sharing the thinking about writing performance objectives using sensory perception. Stacey was a guest presenter at a Breakthrough Leadership webinar series I ran a while ago and her insights into sensory integration and performance measurement rocked the participants (in a powerful way!).

Now be careful of reverting back to 'bullet-point-mania' as you answer these questions! Write it like a story.

Don't worry if at first it feels a little stilted trying to write in 'prosy' sentences - and it definitely won't be what you'd feel comfortable presenting to your team ... at this point all you are wanting to do is to let your creative juices flow. Tame it down a little later if you want ... but for the moment have fun and imagine the best possible scenario.

You see there is a two-fold process happening here ... yes you are prepping up your presentation to the team, but FAR MORE IMPORTANTLY you are igniting within yourself the vibe and the excitement that you want to ignite in your team. And bullet points generally just don't cut it!

If you don't engage YOUR emotions first ... if you aren't excited and eagerly anticipating the bright new future ... how on earth do you expect to get your people feeling that way?

When you engage your emotions and get that sense of anticipation ... the on the edge of your seat - can't wait to get at it feeling... you'll find that when you get in front of your team the words will flow and you will excite your people to come with you on the journey. You won't need your presentation to be word perfect. Your vibe of 'this is going to be good' will carry the day. And interestingly, you don't have to be all 'rah-rah' with it.

engage people Told well, your story will get people excited by the possibilities contained within the change

What's your take away from this page? Hopefully it is this ... that one of the best strategies for managing change is that when you become inspired by and excited about the change you will create the vibe that inspires others to WANT to come on the journey ... regardless of the challenges.

Paul Keating, then Prime Minister of Australia, gave a speech on 10 December 1992 for the Australian Launch of the International Year for the World's Indigenous People. Known as the Redfern Speech it is often suggested as one of the most inspiring and courageous speeches of any Australian Prime Minister. Read the entire transcript of Paul Keating's Redfern speech and take good note of the imagery his words weave. Keating isn't a particularly inspiring orator ... but this illustrates that anyone (even a person who wasn't regarded too highly by the Australian population) can deliver a message that inspires others to want to change.

Here is a 4 minute extract from the speech

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