Add Self-Awareness to Your Change Management Toolkit
It’s disconcerting when your organization is averse to change. It becomes altogether threatening when the ripple effect of your organization’s don’t-move-my-cheese attitude negatively impacts innocent bystanders.
I recently returned from a client’s office where we were working on an organization-wide transformation project to reform a variety of crucial processes. This client’s ability to execute has ramifications at both the local and state level. Put simply, their willingness to implement reform strategies will impact the social and political landscape in their area for years to come.
Given that context, it became important for me to understand how the majority of the organization would receive change initiatives. When pressed for insight, my contact shared the following:
“The 2 biggest complaints I hear are:
1) We hate things how they are, and
2) We don’t want anything to change.”
On its face, the binarily opposed comment paints a bleak outlook of the odds of creating lasting change.
If you look further, however, the client had taken an important step towards realizing their desired outcomes. Knowing what roadblocks to expect is a huge, necessary step in any change management process – so you can prepare to overcome them.
The number one item you need in your change management toolkit is self-awareness. In order to become fully adept at change and able to sustain the introduction of newness over time, you must start first with nurturing a culture that prioritizes self-awareness.
Create a Self-Aware Culture
Perhaps no single quality is as important to long-term change as being self-aware. On every scale, from a personal change to an enterprise transformation, the process must begin with an introspective, honest, reality check, and include check-ins along the way.
In the case of my client, while her comments didn’t seem encouraging, she had informed me the organization was coming into our efforts with their eyes wide open. And – as we all know – the first step on the road to reform is admitting you know the reality of your current situation.
Along the same lines as vulnerability and candor in the workplace, the honest knowledge of where you’re at and the clear definition of where you’d like to end up is necessary. Unfortunately, you can’t just tell everybody to “be self-aware,” and it happens. It’s a scale that teeters between caustic skepticism and obnoxious optimism – and it takes lots of practice to hit it right in the middle.
Ditch the Rose-Colored Glasses
So with this client, we knew that:
- They don’t like the state they’re in.
- Change is the enemy.
Most of my clients are willing to accept the criticism of the first statement but reject the stubbornness of the second. Too many of them underestimate the innate aversion their teams will have to change.
While it can be encouraging in the short-term, the attitude of, “We love change!” can prove detrimental in the long run simply because the client has failed to assess the dig-your-heels-in power of the status quo. In these cases, it’s common that the client faces a silent underground rebellion. One that nods with approval in rah-rah kickoff meetings but cultivates resistance over lunch.
Sometimes over-adjusting by screaming, “We love change!” from the rooftops is the business equivalent of someone telling you your new hack-job haircut makes you look like J. Lo. You know it doesn’t, they know it doesn’t, and the rejection of shared reality just makes it hurt worse.
To help game plan your navigation of the feelings associated with change, check out this article that maps the change management cycle onto the grief cycle – and whoa, are they similar. Add this to your change management toolkit as well.
Gain Trust by Promoting Your Shared Reality
The good news is that while a blind eye will create resistance, an honest assessment can overcome it.
When team members feel like leadership has fallen out of touch with their reality, they shut down instead of being forthcoming with ideas and feedback. They’ll simply wait for the change initiatives to lose momentum and go away entirely – and they will, if you don’t have their trust.
However, by accurately addressing the current attitudes of the organization, you prove to your team that you understand their stance and you can begin to create the culture that sustains change.
This client showed her team that she knew exactly what was going on and what challenges lay ahead for them. They started this journey in the same universe, on the same page, and are committed to reaching the same North Star. By sharing that reality with me – we were able to enter into our process armed with our change management toolkit, fully aware of what we’re working with and ready to tackle it all.
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