Why do people resist change? It’s a simple question and yet it is one that sits at the heart of successful change management. The first step in understanding people lies in understanding yourself.
Gallup’s 10 reports to share with your leaders in 2019 includes the statistic that managers account for at least 70% of the variance in team engagement.
Understanding and modifying your own behaviour can therefore make a marked difference in successful change management.
Even something as simple as remembering that you need to take your people on the change journey that you have already been on can lead to a new approach in change delivery, as you stop instructing and start involving.
Why behaviours and mindsets?
Before we go too much further it’s appropriate to review why we talk about changing behaviours and mindsets in the same sentence.
Quite simply, successful change arises from an interdependence of behaviour and mindset.
It is possible to look to change behaviours alone, but unless an individual understands the reasoning behind the behavioural change and assimilates it into their mindset, then the chances of a lapse are high.
Conversely, if your focus is simply on changing mindsets then your people may not have the tools to engage with the behavioural changes that the new mindset requires.
This is where the 4Es principles of human change come into their own, delivering a cyclical change model that enables behaviours and mindsets to feed off each other.
This also enables people to engage with change and also to build the skills and outlooks required to deliver it.
The 4Es principles of human change
- Educate: provide people with the understanding and rationale behind proposed changes. This is where you take your people on the change journey, helping them to set aside the fight or flight response to change and to build a positive vision of the future. Remember, educating is not training or instructing. Rather, it is about helping the other person to learn and understand.
- Engage: engagement is a consistent two-way dialogue that evolves over time, helping individuals to intellectually and emotionally buy into change and be ready to support it in a positive way. Successful engagement has to speak to both the logical (the who, what, why) as well as the emotional (job satisfaction, resonating with personal values) sides of the brain.
- Empower: engagement enthusiasms will quickly wither way unless you empower your people to take ownership and responsibility for delivering change. You can’t meaningfully engage people inside a command and control regime so in order to deliver change you have to be prepared to restructure systems and processes. This comes back to the Gallup quote above and the need for leaders and managers to create the conditions for empowerment through effective delegation, through trust, and through setting appropriate boundaries and expectations.
- Enable people to act - equip them with skills and structures they need and remove barriers to action. When people are supported within the right environment, they can build the confidence to interact and create solutions. It is this interaction that is crucial in delivering lasting change.
'Behaviours do not occur in a vacuum'
That comment comes from a presentation on the Psychology of Behaviour Change by Dr Lisa Mellon.
It is aimed at healthcare professionals but is also relevant for other organisations.
The paper highlights the way in which changing behaviour is a challenging and complex task that generally has to be managed within the context of other behaviours.
It also underlines the importance of understanding change mechanisms in order to bring about desired outcomes.
Through an understanding of the psychology of change management it is possible to create cultures and deliver change in a way that allows everyone to thrive.
In truth, there is no single pathway that will guarantee to deliver change. Positive change outcomes arise as a result of a multilayered approach, which itself depends on the nature of the challenge, the organisation and its people.
For example, immersion events have proved extremely effective as a catalyst for change.
Their impact will swiftly diminish, however, unless they are supported by visible ongoing leadership, effective communications and change delivery via the 4Es principles.
Similarly, organisations looking to change behaviours through use of ‘nudge’ techniques have to ensure that the underlying business culture and structure will support their efforts.
For example, it is no good using nudge behaviours to promote colleague interactions if the underlying culture still values silo working.
Let the hard work begin
People are individuals. They bring their own unique skill set, ability and outlook to your organisation.
It’s this diversity that contributes to your success, enabling you to deliver innovative solutions and outstanding customer outcomes.
It also means that your collective approach to changing behaviours and mindsets must be delivered within an awareness of individuality.
That might seem like hard work. Nevertheless, through an understanding of the psychology of change management it is possible to create cultures and deliver change in a way that allows everyone to thrive, to the overall benefit of the organisation, its people and its customers.
Interested in this topic? Read Change management: how to get your staff engaged with new ways of working.