In a recent client workshop designed to clarify an enterprise-wide initiative, the participants listed “employees are happy and excited about the change” as one of the objectives of the change management effort. Which has me thinking…
It’s fairly common for change agents to want to not only influence people to take on a new activity or adopt a new behavior, but to also want people to like it and think it’s a great idea. After all, if we convince someone to do something they don’t really want to do, it just seems manipulative. We figure that if we can change attitudes, then the activities and behaviors will naturally follow – and people will still like us afterward.
While I do think it’s ideal that people feel happy and excited about the change, focusing on that as the strategy for change can be a trap. When your goal is making people like the change as the means of getting them to change behaviors, you will likely default to only talking about the positive aspects of the change, and ignoring or downplaying the negative.
The trouble with sunshine and roses is that change is never that easy. Acting like it’s going to be amazing for everyone isn’t fooling anyone. Convincing everyone to like it is not the same as engaging them, which is what you really want. If you only focus on how great it is, you leave no room for helping people deal with the emotions and challenges that the change creates, and enlisting people to work through and own the parts that are not perfect.
Happiness and excitement should not be the means to bring about change, but instead is the natural outcome for employees who have been actively involved to help overcome the parts of the change that are not all sunshine and roses.