What you will learn from reading this article:
Top-down is dead. Long live bottom-up!
Top down management is responsible for a lot of frustrated people, especially when things need to change. People who thought they were doing the right thing had to say goodbye to suddenly obsolete norms, values, procedures, and processes.
It's like waking up in a world where it's utterly wrong to shower and brush your teeth. Would you accept foul smelling because somebody says so?
Nah. It would take a lot of convincing.
Convincing, that's what the regular change process is all about: selling, massaging, seducing, punishing, cajoling, brain-washing, and other directive behaviors, to herd the sheep towards the stable of safety-for-all.
Why Selling Ideas is Not the Way
Well, good luck, leader. People are getting more and more savvy, so don't be surprised if that good old tactic yields fewer results and takes longer.
What do you say? Important decisions can't be left to the workers because they don't care for the company like you do? They care more for their personal gain because their mortgage payments depend on their income? They don't have the birds-eye-view, they don't want the responsibility, they don't have the knowledge? They don't, full stop?
Ah, there you have a point. Most employees don't. But that still doesn't imply that change should be something that happens to them. You're obviously creative, smart, experienced, and committed, so let's put all that to work and find a way that employees themselves create change.
Set your vision and goals aside for a moment and unleash the thinking power of your employees. There will be plenty of opportunities in the process where you can guide the discussion in the direction that you want it to go.
Genuinely Listen to Them
It takes listening to what the entire company thinks. Don't make the mistake of listening foremost to the ones that agree with you. You have to synthesize every and all opinions, including the ones that you don't like. That whole body of opinions needs to change, and that takes a different tactic.
The key question isn't: how can we change their mind so that they will change. On the contrary. The key question is:
What urgent developments need to become visible and easy to understand to kick-start positive critical thinking?
The goal isn't to change people. The goal is to get them to think for themselves and find out that change is the only way out. Wouldn't it be wonderful if they came knocking on your door and ask for change?
The Process Towards the Best Alternative
In my experience, narratives that integrate cool emerging technologies, large shifts in buying patterns or other customer behaviors, and press releases on weird new phenomena will do the trick. It's .an explosive cocktail of information that wakes people up. However, there's a catch. Because if you're the one Googling the narrative together, you will fail.
You need to get your team Googling and developing the narrative. The official term for this process is scenario planning, by the way. It works when you involve your employees.
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Yes, you're right, some of them just won't become involved. But that would have happened as well in the old way. And using scenario planning, your team will not just change, but also bring you robust evidence of change, along with their commitment to create solutions to escape impact.
Have your people investigate change in as many ways, levels, channels and environments as you can think of. Show interest in their findings. Talk about it with anyone who is polite enough to let you. Have them share their ideas as often as possible. When you do this, you might be surprised about what the entire company really thinks.
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