Change happening WITH me is much more attractive than change happening TO me

Change happens when we — employee and company — grow together. Yet, employees in large companies are purposely broken into silos by function, by department, by geography. Internal communications mirror this dysfunction.

In this fragmented environment, transformation doesn’t happen to everyone at the same time, or is felt in the same way.

It’s easy for employees to grow apart during change, rather than rally together.

Change happens only when we shed our company labels and agendas and decide to grow as one. Strong work relationships built on kindness and trust drive transformation. Relationships that raise each other up, giving a voice to all impacted by any change, will lead to success.

As an employee, change happening with me is much more attractive than change happening to me. Change must happen together. No silos. No cliques. No exclusion. This only benefits the company, as diversity of thought sparks the most transformative ideas.

The wise Oprah Winfrey says that there are two things that matter to every human being in the world no matter who you are:

– “Do you see me?” — Does the company see their employees? How much does the company know about their employees? Do they seek to understand what drives their workers at all levels of the organization?

– “Do I matter?” — i.e. “Would you miss me if I was gone?”

To look at that, let’s look at how change happens in any company.

Someone has a vision, an idea, an insight, and then we just act on it and everyone wins, right? In a straight line?

It happens a little bit more like this:

Leadership at a company determines that they need to change, to transform their business in response to market disruption or competition, or perhaps even a new market opportunity. A new vision is needed. Values need to be re-energized. Ways of working must be re-engineered.

This is how change starts — with intent, with a commitment to action. Expensive consultants are summoned to headquarters to develop the plan that will bring salvation.

Then they stand on a stage and say, “Hey, here’s our plan and how it helps the company.” And everyone goes, “Huh? Why should I care about that? You don’t know how this company works. You haven’t asked me. You haven’t engaged anyone. You’ve just come up with this new thing.”

And so the ball rolls down to the chasm, where change dies.

Why did this change fail? Not because of the plan or technology. It failed because the company forgot about the people. Only a committed army of humans make change real. Only they can decide to unlearn the old way and push the ball back up the other side.

The first thing people need to understand is their role in the change. How does this change help me grow? How will it help me make a bigger impact? How will it strengthen my relationships?

If you can’t show how these transformation create more personal growth and work-life satisfaction, then your change is going to fail.

It’s the difference between change happening to me, not with me. There’s nothing in life we want to happen to us rather than with us.

We call this The Impact Gap.

The Impact Gap is a gap in human belief. A gap in the ability to adopt the new. A gap in opportunity to shine. It’s the difference between an idea on paper in a board room and an idea fully embraced by the people, manifest in a thousand daily habits and behaviors that make up the “new normal”.

There are three things you need to do to span that.

First, you’ve got to get people to believe in the change. You have to tell them why, and in a way that is authentic and personal, in their own voice. We’re trying to make people care and making people care is really, really hard. But marketing offers a fresh perspective here.

Next, you’ve got to give them a chance to actually adopt this new thing, to learn it. But that’s not where you start. Most big companies, particularly traditional companies, will give employees training on the thing they only found out about yesterday, with no explanation about why they should care.

Any new change can be perceived as just another “new thing from corporate” to add to my lengthy to-do list. It just feels like another pain. Starting with ‘Why’ helps avoid this misperception.

Finally, there’s opportunity. We’ve all experienced this. You buy into the change. You invest time in the training. Then you go back to your desk and nothing is different. The day-to-day remains status quo, and the promised opportunity never comes.

Opportunity to transform is what scales change throughout the organization. Giving people the chance to lead change and the time to work in new ways is what makes change stick. Where change is successful and simply becomes the new normal.

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Andrew Osterday

Author Andrew Osterday

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