Articles 2 min read

How to Get People to Change – happily! by Miriam Gilbert

I didn’t know this. Honestly, I didn’t!

When I was mid-corporate career, in charge of teams and responsible for delivering results, heading up bloody expensive projects, I didn’t have a clue about it.

“It’ll never work!”

“We have always done it this way”

And ton loads more, more sneaky, hidden resistance ranging from my requests being ignored, put the bottom of the pile to telling me they’d love to be involved and totally agree that this was a great project, but unfortunately, they couldn’t fit it in until…. (fill in the blanks).

Why, why, why are they doing this? Was pretty much my daily mantra.

And then that time I was heading up a new system implementation and tried to get the development team on board with a new approach – that was an unmitigated disaster, even if I say so myself…

I didn’t know why the heck people were just soooo stuck in their way. Why was every attempt to try a new way shot down?

Were all those smart consultants right? Do people really just hate change? And do they have to go through a valley of pain, the infamous change curve, before they can accept it (grudgingly)? Does that mean all my projects, my work life will have to be dealing with smart intelligent adults who behave in ways that makes herding cats a more appealing occupation?

But somehow, I just didn’t buy it that THIS was the truth. I just had more empathy for the people I was dealing with. TBH, I have more RESPECT for them than to reduce them to those stereotypes.

So I knuckled down and learned. I have tried a million things, a gazillion tools, a crap ton of strategies and where I stand today would not have been possible if I had not done all that. The facts are I’ve spent several years of my life using trial and error methods to understand what makes people say yay or nay at work – and it boils down to this:

1. Treat people as the smart, intelligent adults they are. Respect them and talk to them at that level, neither management-speak bullshit nor dumbed-down inspirational crap, either. Appeal to their logic, give them the logical, honest reasons for your project and seek their input.

2. Understand a bit about how the human brain works. While we all have the capacity for logic (and we must respect that), a lot of times ancient parts of our brains run amok like a sugar-crazed toddler in a sweet shop – we are full of emotions and biases that influence our thinking and actions. There is no shame in this – we are ALL like that, you and I included. To understand what biases people might hold, what pressures they face and you’ll have the leavers to connect with them on a level that makes getting support sooo much easier (please note: I didn’t say manipulate them – that’s for sleazy slimroaches only)

3. Check out the situation. Did you know that when put into a specific situation, most people will behave in a similar way – it’s human nature. So check what’s going on, in both the physical and the non-tangible environment that can cause resistance. Far too often have I seen stuff like bonus structures or other “reward” mechanisms make people behave in ways that don’t help anyone…

So next time you get push back on your project, next time people tell you it will never work, go through those three points to get to the truth of why they don’t support you – and resistance will melt away like a snowman in the Sahara.

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