Change — the mere thought of it can leave even the strongest leader with a bit of heartburn. Usually, it’s because when change is coming, leaders know that resistance is not far behind.
Think about what would happen if we planned for change as part of the overall strategy for a program right at the beginning, as we are analyzing the performance need. If we could get in lock step with the stakeholder and manage the change as a part the process and program, it would come faster and easier. Here are some tips for doing it right:
1. Be a Learner
When change happens, learning and development (L&D) leaders need to operate with a growth mindset around how the change impacts any processes and programs our teams support. The stakeholders driving the change often need quick action, and we are the people who help them discern how behavior change happens based on the new process, procedures or methods. If we have been good stewards of data measurement, we may even be able to predict how the change will impact performance.
2. Lead With “Why”
One of the most common reasons people resist change is that they do not understand the reason behind it. L&D leaders can mitigate this problem with good communication. Help your stakeholder create a communication plan with targeted messages that give people a journey map of where they are where they are going and how they are going to get there. Show them the urgency of the change and how it helps close a skill gap or impacts organizational performance in a meaningful way. Include senior leaders in communications, and think about a blended delivery that includes some quick-hit video messaging from both leaders and peers.
3. Address Fears Head-on
Many people do not like change because they tell themselves stories about what the change means to them. Encourage your stakeholders to be transparent, and help employees understand where they fit into the plan or vision. If the answer is an unknown, say so. Leaders who tell the truth and have empathy create trust on their teams. Share information, and help people understand how the change impacts their role, what will remain the same, what will change and how learning will support the change.
4. Create Opportunities for Peer Contribution and Inclusion
Work with your stakeholders to discover change champions up front. These folks help share the “why” and the vision and bring peers on board quickly. Use champions to contribute to the plan for change and the learning that is necessary to drive it. Let them try tools and technologies first, help spread the message of learning, and become excited about the value behind the change.
Consider asking these champions to help facilitate some of the learning components once the change is rolled out. Doing so will make them feel included and help build adoption. When people feel valued, they are better and more creative contributors — and they bring their friends along. This strategy help keeps the energy high and helps people see that change is an opportunity to learn and grow.
Learning is what keeps performance high during the change process. Since L&D is focused on behavior change, working with stakeholders and their champions helps manage objections, power performance and measure success.
5. Incorporate a Coaching Check-in
Consider working with the stakeholder to have a coach or leader do an intentional check in with teams to talk about what they are learning through the change and how it has impacted their performance. Giving people time to reflect and give feedback will help them remain engaged. Consider highlighting success stories along the way and allowing peers to share and celebrate milestones. Document ideas for improvements; follow through on them when possible, and explain why if it’s not.
At the end of the day, remember that people change when change matters to them personally and professionally. As Dan and Chip Heath wrote in their book “Switch,” you have to direct the rider, motivate the elephant and shape the path. People are both rational and emotional, like a rider on an elephant. The rider is the planner and problem-solver, and the elephant is the emotional driver. If there is an impasse, the elephant wins. The path is the external environment, and in order to put the elephant on the right path, the rider must remove obstacles to make it easier for the elephant to follow.