Changing minds —the Hallmark of management excellence

Drake Editorial Team

One significant aspect of a successful manager is the ability to “change people’s minds”. It would be nice if employees in the manager’s business unit just followed instructions, directions and assignments without the slightest question or resistance. This won’t happen. With the diversity of employee make-up, and the generational variance between managers and members of the team, there is much persuasion to be done.

Changing Minds - Communicate & ListenThe ability to communicate change and modify how employees think and act requires a number of relevant skills. Managers need to master these abilities in order to develop a successful business unit.

1. Communicate. It all starts with the ability to craft the “change communication”, whether for individuals or for groups. Communication must be clear, precise, supported by facts and be unequivocal. The manager must receive 100% buy-in to the change required.

2. Make a compelling case. Where important change must take place, whether in the work or direction of the business unit, a shake-up in staffing or company re-organization, the manager must make the compelling case for the change. One of the most effective methods to achieve this is to use a technique that scientists refer to as “falsification.” It’s a fancy word for comparing the current situation or plan to the new change or direction that the business unit needs to make going forward.

This process starts by establishing the basis for what constitutes the “best solution.” Then, the current way of doing things and the new change way are compared to the best solution hypothesis. The current way of doing things should prove false when compared to the case for change.

What the skilled manager is seeking is to open minds and guide people to accept the rationale for the change, or need to change. This “buying in” to the change that must take place is a mental and emotional channel that each employee on the team must work through. The goal is to present the change-case in such a clear and compelling way that the mind-set of the employees becomes, “You have presented a very good case for why the change is needed, and the new direction seems a solid course of action. I am seeing why this is needed and I will need to adapt to the need for change.”

3. Persuade. Bringing about this “buy-in” for both the need to change and the new course of action is not easy. Strong persuasive skills are critical. People resist change. People are human, and any significant change is painful. Frankly, the absolute necessity for people to change and adapt to a new direction and to modify or shift their mind-set, can be very frustrating for the manager to bring about. Employees are thinking, “How will this affect me” or “what’s in it for me to make this change.” People are frightened of change. If employees have been around for very long, they have already gone through a number of changes brought down on them from above. It is not unusual for people to think, “Oh, here we go again, another new program from management!”

The pressure on companies to change and evolve in order to stay viable and deliver ever increasing value to customers is almost relentless in today’s fractured economic environment. Company leaders are not always right. Previous changes may have gone wrong or not worked out. People are skeptical and resistant. The new plans, programs or organizational modifications will always go through a period of uncertainty and confusion. It takes time to bring about the change, and only time will tell if the change is right or if modifications and revisions will need to be made. The results of change are the ultimate test. Goals met or not, profits created or not, budgets met or not, customers created or not, are examples of the standards of reality for whether the change was successful.

Given that there are no absolute guarantees that the “latest big idea from senior management” will work, the real work is in creating the willingness of people to change or go in the new direction. It all starts with uncertainty. The manager must recognize the uncertainty and skepticism and build the best case for the need to change. You build the case as completely and clearly as possible. You create the “criteria” that both the existing situation and the change situation are compared to (the “falsification test”). The manager presents the case with complete command of all the issues and with the vision and commitment to re-position people’s thinking. Then, the manager works closely, and tirelessly, on getting the behaviours needed to bring about the change.

Reprinted with the permission of Mike Moore, Founder of Management by Delegation, a company dedicated to developing programs for today’s busy managers and executives based on real world experience and the input from successful managers.  http://plan-delegate-manage.com/


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