If You’re Not Onboard, Get Off the Ship!

Written by: Lorrie Coffey, Horizon Point Consulting

The best piece of advice I heard at the recent SHRM19 National Conference came from Cy Wakeman’s session “Business Readiness: Ensuring Our Teams are Ready for What’s Next.”

As a consultant, I spend a great deal of my time helping organizations navigate change, from determining what change is needed to creating the roadmap of how to accomplish the change to how to get employee buy-in. The hardest part is often getting employees on board, helping them understand the need for change and addressing their resistance.

The current change management process caters too much to the individual employee when it should focus more on the overall business need for change. Leaders spend a great deal of time sitting on the sidelines with those few employees on the bench trying to convince them why they need to get in the game with everyone else. They allow the minority of employees who want to resist the change to stall the process or to even quash it.

According to Cy, leadership needs to stop trying to please everyone and focus on those employees who are champions for change and who understand the vision, because they will be the ones who drive change forward. And change is all about ensuring the sustainability of the organization and creating an opportunity for growth. Those resistant will only hold the organization back and will never support the change. Their resistance is driven by their own ego, not what’s in the best interests of the organization.

So how can organizations effectively navigate change management?

  1. Don’t jump the gun. Change management isn’t a race, it’s not about being the fastest out of the starting gate. Take the time needed upfront to thoroughly assess the need for change, the options for how to make the change, and the impact each option will have on the organization as a whole. Proper planning will lead to proper execution. Making snap decisions too often leads to the need to backtrack, which causes employees to lose faith in leadership’s ability to manage and makes them more resistant to change.
  2. Explain the why then move forward. It’s important to maintain a level of transparency with employees. Explain the why behind the change in terms that all employees can understand and outline how the change will positively impact the organization as a whole. But don’t dwell on it. Once you’ve explained it, move on to the how and when. Don’t let resistant employees continue to question the why this is where change stalls.
  3. Think inside the box. A key point that Cy made was that we’ve been conditioned to “think outside the box” and that method of thinking tends to lead to passing the buck. The tendency when we think outside the box is to think of how we can use others to get things accomplished. She recommends we start thinking inside the box by asking “what can I do” instead of “what can others do”.
  4. Stop trying to please everyone. You will have resistant employees, it’s inevitable. Stop focusing on pleasing them. Organizations change because it’s necessary to continue to thrive and grow. It’s best for the organization as a whole, so stop wasting your energy on that small minority who refuse to get on board, who protest change. They are stalling your organization’s growth and the majority of employees who are supportive of the change are suffering as a result, so is the organization. Those employees have a choice, and Cy put it so eloquently:

“Stay in joy or go in peace, but you can’t stay in hate.”


For more on change management, you may also enjoy our posts Change Management: Celebrating the Small Victories and 4 Ways to Help Change Happen When Change is Hard

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