A common theme of change management is to involve people in the process of change as early as possible. Do change with people, not to them. If people help identify the issues with the current state and develop solutions, then resistance will be eliminated. After all, it’s hard to resist something you create, right?
Nope. Here’s a story to illustrate:
My daughter, who is about to start middle school, recently came to me with the idea to rearrange the furniture in her room. Much of the furniture had moved and been replaced over the years, but her bed had been in the same spot since she moved up from the toddler bed when she was four years old.
She showed me a sketch of the new layout. She wanted to move the bed to another spot. Fun!
We picked a day to move everything around. We tried out a few configurations before she decided on the final one. She was excited about how it looked and functioned.
Then, at bedtime: tears! “It makes me feel stressed out and scared,” she cried. “I’ll never be able to sleep like this. I want to move everything back. Right. Now.” (Did I mention she’s about to start middle school?)
Even though she came up with the idea to move the bed, designed the layout herself, helped make the transition, and decided on the final solution, she still felt discomfort and resistance to the change.
I told her it was totally normal to feel uncomfortable sleeping in a new spot, and that she’d get used to it after a night or two. We even discussed some of the brain science behind resistance.
“That doesn’t help me right now,” she said. She knows my work is to help people influence change. She’s even read my book, 99 Ways to Influence Change. She pulled the book off her shelf and asked me which of them would work to help her feel better. So, I flipped through a few random pages and told her how they applied to her situation:
Encourage: “I know you’re brave enough to try to sleep in a different spot. I’m proud of your courage to try something new.”
Harness Peer Pressure: “I bet your friends have rooms that look like this.”
Induce Guilt: “I worked so hard moving your furniture, and I’m exhausted. Now you want to move it back?”
Hold Them Accountable: “It was your idea to move your room. Now you have to live with the consequences.”
Beg: “Please go to bed. Please please please!”
Shrink It: “Just try it for one night and see how it goes.”
Bribe: “If you go to bed right now, you can have dessert for breakfast tomorrow.”
In the end, I think it was the laughter that helped, which is also on the list: Make It Fun.
She finally went to bed and woke up the next morning feeling better. It took her a while to get used to it, but instead of wanting to go back to the old layout, she found ways to make the new layout work.
Engagement is a great place to start to minimize resistance, but it may not eliminate it completely. People still need a little help to work through the uncomfortable response they have to change, even when it was their idea.
Would you like to add 99 Ways to Influence Change to your toolkit, to draw upon when you need them? Get your copy of the book on Amazon here: