“People resist change, especially when it’s imposed on them,” says Jim Hemerling in his 2016 TEDTalk, 5 ways to lead in an era of constant change. Six years later and that era of constant change is more highly concentrated than ever before. It’s exhausting. So while you may be doing your best to create transformation in your business in an effort to stay ahead of change, don’t be surprised when your team don’t all rush to support your latest idea.
That said, you may notice these same people will react to a personal change with enthusiasm and excitement, especially if it’s something they’ve always wanted to do – like starting a new hobby, or training for a fun run.
The trick then is in finding out how to generate that same level of excitement for a new initiative you want to implement at work. What approaches will empower your team and have them embracing change with gusto?
In his TED Talk, Organizational Change expert Jim Hemerling sought to address this very thing. Speaking to the whys of our collective eye-roll whenever our business leaders talk about organisational transformation, he highlighted issues like:
- taking too long to act – so everything is always in “Crisis” mode
- focusing on short-term results – leaving little hope for more sustainable, longer-term solutions
- only taking a superficial approach – holding on to the hope that “everything will get back to normal” after the crisis is over (sounds chillingly prescient from that dateline).
Anyone of these issues can overwhelm and exhaust workers, especially if it keeps happening again and again. It can lead to lower staff morale and engagement, and make the change process difficult; even counter-productive.
So what’s the answer? Well, Jim’s the expert, so I’m going to defer once again to his wisdom – wisdom he has distilled into what he calls The 5 Imperatives of Change. Interestingly, he identifies a single theme that runs through each of these imperatives: Putting People First.
The first of his imperatives is to inspire through purpose. It’s important to remember that what may motivate you as a business leader, may not translate as fully to your frontline workers. He cites Lego as an example, who successfully executed a series of changes across their business by connecting through a single purpose everyone in the business could connect with: To “inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow”.
Number two, says Jim, is to go all in. Often, when leaders use the words “transformation” or “step-change”, workers hear “down-sizing”. Jim admits that may be a part of transformation, but it’s not the only aspect. It’s also about creating new initiatives that “allow you to win in the medium-term” and propel the company forward in a positive way.
The third imperative is to enable people with the capabilities they need to succeed. This relates to the second imperative in that new initiatives will include investing in your people to make sure they have the skills and the tools they need to do what you need them to do, and do it well. And by skills, we don’t just mean technical and operational skills. Building your team’s people skills empowers them to collaborate and serve your customers better – as does giving them more authority to solve problems on the spot.
Fourth is to instill a culture of continuous learning. Not only does this help build your team’s resilience to unavoidable changes, it boosts internal collaboration and fosters exploration and innovation within and across different functional areas of your business.
Finally, Jim’s fifth imperative targets leaders specifically, and that is to be an inclusive leader. As a leader, your team expects you to have a clear vision and a plan for how to achieve it. But that doesn’t mean you need to have all the answers. Being an inclusive leader means staying open to ideas and suggestions from everyone you work with, at any level in the organisation. Jim emphasizes, “It’s critical to putting people first.”
Putting people first — key to change
If we are to successfully implement real and lasting change, it’s important to bring others on the journey with us. Your team is one of (if not the) most important asset you have to help you create the effects you want to achieve through your business. They are the ones who bring your business to life for your customers, day in, day out, and they are the ones who can help you transform your business beyond even your own aspirations.
I’ve only captured core elements of Jim’s TEDTalk in this article, and it’s a topic that warrants exploration and discussion as we navigate an evolving workplace. I highly recommend watching Jim’s talk for yourself below.