Managers: Stop resistance to change

Even if your team members are as adaptable as chameleons, they'll struggle with change unless you approach it correctly.
Jun 01, 2009
By staff

First, realize that resistance to the unknown is natural. It's how you handle this resistance that determines success or failure. The best way to implement change—and deal with opposition—is to set the stage long before it's time to order the new polo shirts. Here's how:

Step 1: Talk about it

Your management discusses problems and necessary changes, but you need to have the same discussions with the people who implement the changes—the employees. Everyone must agree on the problems and why they need solutions. People don't argue with what they help create. You'll get team members' buy-in through their participation.

Step 2: List the benefits

Spell out the desired outcome of the change and why it's better. If the benefit doesn't outweigh the hassle in team members' eyes, they'll resist. Constantly express why the new way will be advantageous to everyone in the long run.

Step 3: Get the right people in the right places

Hire qualified people and keep the momentum going by ensuring that everyone enjoys a clearly defined role. Then hand-pick leaders by looking for these qualities: Conviction that change is essential to competitiveness, ability to articulate a compelling vision, and strong people and organizational skills to get the job done.

Step 4: Focus on results

If you can't measure it, you can't manage it. Give team members something to work for—and yourself something to track—by setting measurable goals. Discuss these goals, as well as the results, regularly with every team member. As employees achieve the desired results, set new goals. Do this continually.

Step 5: Start systems

Team members can't grow without a supportive infrastructure. Regardless of the size of your practice, create systems for handling human resources, managing projects, and controlling quality. If this sounds foreign, begin with personnel. Do you have a disciplinary process for employees who don't perform to expectations? If you answered yes, you already have at least a germ of an HR system in place. Now try to make it more complete. If you answered no, create a process and move to the next system. Carry a notepad and write down operational problems, such as a service failure or team miscommunication, as you encounter them. Then implement a system that will prevent them from happening again.

Step 6: Constantly retrain

Employees can't read your mind, so teach them to do the work you expect. You must invest the necessary time and money, because there's a direct correlation between training and productivity. And don't stop educating when an employee has been with your practice for 10 years. If you're continuously changing like you should be, every team member will need regular training to keep up.