Part 2 The magic formula for effective change

I previously blogged about gaining buy-in, through using cognitive dissonance effectively.  Today I’m talking about the other factors that are necessary.

If you want people to change, firstly they need to feel that the change has a purpose which they can identify with – and feel a part of (see Part 1.)

Once this is established it is vital to reinforce the change. One of the things that often happens is that employees are told about changes, but the existing structures do not support the people, when it comes to acting upon these changes. For example, imagine you have been told that the new emphasis is developing customer relations, but there is no time allocated to this and it doesn’t appear on the appraisal scorecard or as a competency – well – most people will not bother. This isn’t because they don’t care, it’s simply because the business is giving conflicting messages.

However, if you set up systems to help reinforce change – such as rewards – people will simply lose interest after a while. You need to keep the change alive and this requires an emotional investment.

We need to appreciate that people are naturally motivated towards personal development – although organisations tend not to recognize the power of this drive. When we are emotionally committed to a goal we strive to develop our skills – it’s a natural process. Daniel Pink calls it the drive for Mastery: a never ending journey to improve our skills in doing something that is meaningful to us.

The key to all of this is gaining the emotional commitment and this is never as easy as gaining a rational understanding of the change; but without the emotional connection it will not be assimilated as quickly or as easily.

So how can you get people emotionally committed to your workplace changes? Well, first of all, make sure they know “how” to carry out this change – have we provided them with the skills? Then consider: are we carrying out these changes ourselves? If we don’t walk the talk people will not respond positively – role models are essential.

Now you need to consider how to connect the rational understanding your people may have of the changes you are implementing to their emotional responses; you need to ask emotional questions. For example, if you are aiming to improve client relationships you may ask: “Think about a time when you have built a great client relationship; what did you do that made it so effective? How did it feel to create that relationship?”

By asking questions that focus people on their own emotions they can begin to connect the rational with the emotional and then your people really will feel engaged with the change.

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