How to Get Past Just Telling People to Change Their Behavior

Organizations spend millions designing a new vision or strategy or creating a process improvement plan. Then executives send out an email or hold a Townhall and expect to see results. 

It rarely works and often backfires. 

Stop telling them. Show them the behaviors you seek; ask them to help design the solutions; and set them up for success.

Follow these four steps to accelerate change:

1. Show Them

Employees will believe in change when they see it. So often, companies announce change by sending out an email with a document that only confuses people. Give employees clear examples of what a good looks like. If you want better presentations or more compelling business updates, show them what you mean and help them learn it. Show them how decisions are made and spell out the criteria, so they can deliver better options and make a stronger business case. Map out exactly how a new process really works; let them walk through it, so they can ask questions.

2. Start at the Top

The quickest way for any organizational change to fail is for executives to ask employees to make a change they themselves won’t make. Change starts at the top. If you want teams to collaborate, coach executives on how they can work openly and effectively across silos without hoarding information and holding tight onto decision-making power. If you want to stop meetings from eating up everyone’s days, give managers clear direction on how to run effective meetings that start on time and end with clear next steps.

3. Get Them Involved in the Solution

People support what they help to build. Get employees at all levels involved in developing the solutions. Employees who actually execute the process are in perfect position to contribute to fixing it, and when they are asked to participate, they buy in. When key stakeholders co-create the solution, they become advocates for it, and that accelerates change. Get employees involved early in redesigning a process or the customer experience.

4. Give Them the Right Priorities and Incentives

Executives often put together a strong case for change and set a good vision of the future, but as Harvard Business Review put it recently, they confuse cooperation with collaboration.  Managers may be willing to have their teams share, support, and cooperate with one another, but unless their priorities, resources, and key performance indicators are aligned, they can’t or won’t work toward the same goal. To get people to change, stop telling them; create an environment that fosters co-creation and lead by example. Get employees involved in developing the solution. Have executives and managers model the right behaviors and show their teams how to do things well. Then align priorities and rewards, so everyone is working towards the same goal.