Peace of Mind

Today was one of those fantastic mornings.  I’m on a road trip in the Northeast, and the crisp, cool temperatures signaled fall is in the air; my favorite season.  I decided I would also spread some good cheer, so I sent my wife a “good morning” text that she could read at her leisure.  What I thought was a nice gesture turned out to be anything but.

“You owe me an apology,” was her response.

I wracked my brain trying to remember what offense I had committed.  It was a shock to me.  I couldn’t think of anything, so I replied,

“I’m sorry.  But what did I do?  I forget.”

I waited on her answer.  A mild panic set in as I watched the unchanging screen on my smart phone.  It must be bad, I thought.  This is taking a while.   Finally, a ding signaled an incoming text.

“You were really mean to me in my dream last night.”

I chuckled, and then dialed my wife.  We shared a laugh, but she mentioned that even though the situation was totally ridiculous, her body was still reacting as if she had been wronged.  She felt angry and frustrated.  Uncertainty and doubt create real emotions, even if the manifestations of the uncertainty turn out to be false.  And for my wife, it took her a while to shake the feeling and get into the flow of her day.

The exchange reminded me of how we often implement changes in our organizations.  We start with a wonderful idea that we think will bring about lots of benefits (like my “good morning”).  We share the idea with the front line people, thinking they will see the benefits as well.  Unfortunately, we may not have a clear picture of the challenges they are facing, or how the change will impact them.  And this lack of knowledge blinds us to real feelings that must be worked through.  

So, when implementing changes, consider the following in order to move through the rough patches and get back on solid footing.

  1. Expect Emotion:  Leaders are typically very good at planning the structural side of change, but ignore the people side.  Realize that the brain’s natural response to change is to view it as a threat.  People need time to come on board, so hear them out.
  2. Validate Concerns:  When team members share concerns, our natural response is to counter these concerns with how we plan to overcome them.  Unfortunately, this can be perceived as you not listening.  Instead, spend time acknowledging the legitimacy of the concerns before offering ideas for moving forward.
  3. Be Prepared To Wait:  We often say there is a “learning curve” associated with any change.  What we fail to acknowledge is that the curve always trends downward before finally showing the promise of a performance enhancement.  Allow room for discomfort and temporary failure.  Otherwise, people may mistake the performance drop as a sign that the change was a bad idea.  Improvement takes time.

For over thirty years we have helped our clients work through the people and process side of implementing change.  And following these tips will help prevent your new initiatives from being derailed by people problems.  If you are looking for other ways to improve your team’s response to change, just give us a call at (800) 386-5611.  We would love to hear from you.




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