Changing culture is probably the most important ingredient to any successful change initiative. Rather you’re a leader with authority or a change agent without authority, getting the culture behind the change is the only certain way to sustain the results you put in place.
A leader once tried to convince me that I, as a change agent, operated much like a salesman. Not giving it a lot of thought at the time, I thought to myself, I’m the furthest thing away from a salesman. It didn’t dawn on me right then and there, but it wasn’t a traditional salesman he was referring to. It made me think, we’re all salesmen to some extent. As leaders of change, we’re trying to sell a vision, a need for change, ideas, concepts, and ultimately what’s in it for them.
Here are four tips I’ve successfully used to help transform cultures across many businesses and organizations:
- The Why. It’s imperative that everyone knows “why” change is needed. Once they understand the purpose they are more willing to accept change and the importance of it.
- Where You’re Headed. This could be a short-term goal or a long-term vision, but you need to clearly communicate what success looks like. As they begin to visualize this it will make more sense why change is needed and the steps it might take to get there. Again, your salesmanship will be tested here.
- Where to Start. At times it’s difficult to totally comprehend how a goal or vision will be achieved, so it’s important to break it down to manageable, bite-sized pieces.
- Involvement. The greatest chance for any project to sustain results is to get the team’s buy-in and have them have an active part in creating the solution. I’ve found that an 80% solution that employees come up with is better than a “near perfect” solution leaders come up with will yield higher and more sustainable results in the long-term. After all, you can continually improve the process later down the road.
To conclude, a good rule to live by as a change leader, you’ll get further by selling rather than telling. Don’t start off be giving the team a solution. If possible, if you have a solution, start by asking them questions in a manner that will lead them to the solution with having to tell them what it is. Make them think it was their idea when possible.