You’ve probably had moments in your life when you stopped to take a good look at where you were going, then shook your head and picked another direction. Let’s talk about what happens after you pick a heading.
When you want to move in a new direction, who else will be affected?
You’ve seen the signs and did the research. If things don’t change, if you don’t make things change, you’ll end up a long way away from where you want to be.
- Something’s been eating at you and you need to make things better. It’s change or get run over, change or be left behind.
- Something needs to change, and you’re planning to take charge of the process. You’re doing this for very important reasons.
If you built a business all by your merry lonesome, well, hey, congratulations. But there are two things to consider when you’re fixing to make changes.
- Are you really doing it alone?
- Who else will be affected by the intended change?
A business not just a legal entity. Anything involving people brings relationships into the picture: When you’re planning changes like shifting directions, it’s not as easy as turning the steering wheel. All the parts need to work together to move a car where you want to go, and it’s the same with business.
- What about reactions from family, partners or employees?
- You also have people you work for and with– suppliers, for example, and customers/clients, for sure. What about them?
Even if you’re a sole proprietor, you work in a network of friends, family, partners, suppliers, clients, advisors and customers. You’re a member of several social groups withing your business network. You are influenced and have more influence than you think, and actions ripple out in consequences, in the networks you’re a part of.
When you want to make a change in the organization you created, you won’t be the only one affected by the change. To make it easier for everyone involved, you can to have them buy into your intended changes. But how?
Show them the side of the situation that’s motivating you to make a change, and let them see what’s in it for them. Show them their place in the new picture. Show them the better possibilities they can have in the new place.
The common problem is a sort of mental blindness. Do something long enough to get good at it, you can grow into thinking that there’s only one way to do it. Other ways get shut out. It’s like the Zen saying, “In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind, there are few.” People grow used to thinking that thing’s are “just okay” can get stuck. What’s worse, they can cling, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that change is needed. (That’s why they’re called comfort zones.)
Many times you won’t know that something is possible until after you’ve already done it. All through out the experience, you move in a state of suspended disbelief until you catch your breath and realize “Holy crap, I did it!” And even then you remember moaning and being terribly anxious all the while you’re already doing it.
There’s this thing about human hard-wiring that makes it hard for us to accept changes once we’ve gotten used to something, and can you see the twist there? Once we’ve gotten acclimated, which meant we had a period of adjustment — and then forgot the pain as we gained a new sense of control and familiarity over the changes. The thing that makes us balk at change is the fear of discomfort and the anxiety is produces, not the actual difficulty, so when you brush off the fear with actually doing the thing, you pretty much forget about it when you’re done.
Then there’s the conflict between individuals with their own goals. How can you motivate a group to work better together? In uncertain situations we naturally look towards maintaining our own stability. We raise our defenses and hole up until the danger has passed. Those times, reasonable communication has done a lot to let the drawbridges come down. People are uncertain and nervous: ask them why and address their fears.
Questions like: how is this going to affect me? What do the changes involved? How much is it going to hurt, and for how long? Are there any options we can explore to lessen the negative impact?
The unknown is a scary thing to contemplate, and we have very active imaginations that do a lot in inflating even small, niggling anxieties. Since we have so many stressors in modern day life (worries about jobs, finances, health and child care, for example) knowledge and assurances go a long way in laying some fears to rest. Here are a few ways to do that:
- Solicit ideas and involve the concerned parties in the discussion
- Get people involved by showing them how it’ll pay out. When we feel we have a say in the matter, and that we exercised our choice in seeing it down, we practice our sense of belonging, freedom and autonomy.
- Set clear, measurable and time-bound goals for yourself and for those involved, and centralize your communications so you can help each other on your progress and accountability. This also helps keep everyone in the loop .
- Celebrate success and share the recognition.
What you’ll need to practice:
- Organization skills in analyzing and re-partitioning time, effort, and focus, as well as communication, money and labor.
- Clarity — understanding must go both ways. If what they hear is not what you meant, or vice versa, it’ll come back to haunt you. Be clear.
- Accountability — if people miss their goals, let them dust themselves off and get up while they deal with the results. There’s no other way to directly learn accountability than dealing with the results of your actions.
Keep people informed
Transparency and clarity are the new watchwords when it comes to building trust, and trust is the currency that keeps you afloat. When people trust you, you gain authority and power to influence them. Use that wisely. Trust builds community. Authority lets you lead it.
Nerves and anxiety can be settled with announcements and updates of what’s happening. “Hey everybody, we’re at stage X, there have been a few bugs and this is what we’re doing, if you have anything hinky to report, please share, etc.” Let’s be honest though, there are just some people who think complaining is communication. Find a way to screen out meaningless noise to get to valid issues. That saves time and tension.
Keep them interested
Think of those ads and banners that announce sales. On average, they register for moments, then out of sight, out of mind. What if you get a chance to announce them — a count off to the big sale? A count-down to the website change-over? When people see a pay-off it must be associated with their self-interests, otherwise, it won’t stick. Draw them into behavior that supports the end-goal, or at least won’t impede your progress to it.
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