Change is an inevitable part of life. We know that we must grow and develop alongside change, but when imposed upon us, it can be difficult to embrace.
In today’s business environment, change is now a constant state of being. So we should be pros at managing it, right?
However, many of us still seem to run into the same walls over and over again. In fact, one study showed that 70% of change initiatives fail.
Too often, organisations think speed is the answer - make change happen as quickly as possible to limit disruption. Or, they focus too much on the technical sides of change.
But it’s people that make up your organisation. And most of us don’t like being forced outside of our comfort zones.
So how can you ensure you prepare your people for change? And how can you keep them engaged through the transition?
Resistance to change
People resist change for all sorts of reasons. Perhaps the vision isn’t clear, or no one has communicated what change will mean for them. Initiatives may be too much, too soon, or too complex. Individuals may perceive change as a threat to their job role. Maybe they feel the change initiative isn’t the right idea, or think there is a better way.
But often, it’s not the change itself that causes resistance. Real opposition happens when change is enforced on people. As American writer and management consultant, Margaret Wheatley explains, “People don’t resist change - people change all the time. What people resist is having others impose change on them.”
The role of coaching
Coaching is an important part of successfully navigating an organisation through change.
Coaching satisfies several objectives. It can be used to communicate the need for change and to train people in new processes and procedures.
Most importantly, however, it helps organisations, teams and managers identify and eliminate resistance to change.
Coaching provides people with a safe forum to ask questions and voice worries or concerns about the change. The idea is to help individuals make sense of it, so they can connect it to their own goals. This is the key to ensuring the transition from resistance - to acceptance.
Going back to Wheatley’s point that people only resist change that is imposed on them, through coaching we can help individuals make their own way through change, without telling them what to do. And in doing so, they carve change for themselves.
Allow for as many employees as possible to be part of the change process, provide employees with the responsibility to train other employees and engage them in the evaluation process. The more you can involve people, the more they will feel part of the change process, and less like it's beyond their control.
The personality factor
Not everyone reacts to change in the same way. At the heart of it, it’s personality that underpins how people will respond to change.
For example, those with a tendency towards extraversion may be more open about their thoughts and feelings on change. More introverted individuals may prefer to process their thoughts alone.
Understanding the personality traits of your people allows managers and coaches to predict how individuals are likely to respond to a situation or change, so they can deploy the appropriate coaching style to manage them effectively.
It also helps us determine who might best lead change, who might see problems associated with change, and who may struggle during times of transition.
One of the main reasons change initiatives fail is because not enough focus is given to the people side; changing habits, ways of working and belief systems. But the success of your change initiative depends on changing the mindsets of your people to act in the new way. And if you know how individuals are likely to respond, you can manage the human side of change more effectively.