When Change Leaders Must Be Harsh

“Why can’t they just do it already?”

It’s a common complaint for leaders. The goal is clear, training has been provided, and supports are in place. Why aren’t people adapting? 

A good question. There are many reasons and leaders should look at themselves first with these factors in mind:

  • Clarity: Have we explained what is needed in terms that make sense to our people? Are managers reiterating the message correctly? Have all questions been answered?
  • Capacity: Have we provided people with the time and resources to embrace the change? Are there competing changes vying for their attention?
  • Continuity: Have we explained what’s changing as well as what is not? Were impacts properly assessed?
  • Credibility: Do our leaders have the street cred to inspire followership?
  • Coaching: Have we offered the right training with sufficient practice to develop confidence? Are our managers ready to provide emotional and practical support during the transition?

(Read more about the 5 Cs of the Strategy Accelerator here)

The reality is that even when these components are in place, some people will not comply. They may be confused, or they may hate their job and those in charge. It happens.

When there are no obvious barriers to change and leaders have done their best to convince stakeholders of the ‘why,’ leaders should apply force. Yes, sometimes that means the message is, “Get in line or get out.” 

We are hearing this expressed in various terms around the return to office. Leaders correctly recognize that the best innovation typically happens in person. Bringing people together sparks ideas and expedites decisions. It is NOT unreasonable to ask people to come in for some part of the week. 

At some point, leaders must push if they want resisters to step up. Avoiding the harsh request fosters doubt for others: “Maybe the change isn’t that important if there’s no pressure to do it. I guess I will wait and see.” Don’t let that sentiment snowball into a wave of resistance.

We must remember that the employment relationship is an exchange. Organizations pay employees to do what is asked of them in service of the organization’s goals. Employees have a choice whether they comply. Employers also have a choice to say goodbye.

Thoughtfully yours,
Jeff Skipper

Verified by MonsterInsights