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Monthly Archives: April 2010

Overcoming resistance to workplace change – Part II

Earlier this week, I blogged about how change is the only constant in today’s business world, and I offered you two specific ideas to bring people on board when they resist change. Here are three more.

  1. Proactively address the objections. Every change effort has its disadvantages and your opponents will be sure to put them on parade. Pre-empt them by anticipating and acknowledging their doubts, and then respond to their concerns with your own compelling argument AND offer solutions that will at least attempt to mitigate their fears and worries.
    The Greek symbol for change
  2. Find ways to build momentum. Just as there is always a fraction of those who oppose change, there is also a small group of people who are the front-line change adopters. You can recognize these folks right away – these are the ones who jump up and say “Let me at them!” Use these people to build momentum. You don’t have to carry the entire load of the change effort on your shoulders; let these people help you spread the good word.
  3. Be a broken record. Stay on message, repeat your compelling arguments, persist with those who are against the change. Don’t let your nay-sayers off the hook, particularly if they are your staff members; hold them accountable to achieving the department’s or organization’s goals.

Any change effort will come up against dissenters. It’s up to you to find a way to break through the opposition and bring the cynics and resisters on board. These five ideas (three today and two from Monday April 22) are guaranteed to help. What other ideas do you have?

Overcoming resistance to workplace change – Part I

Nothing endures but change

– from Lives of the Philosophers by Diogenes Laertius

Chinese symbol for change
Chinese symbol for change

Laertius may have penned these famous words circa 3rd century, but they are just as true today as they were eighteen centuries ago.  If you’re a manager or supervisor in an organization, then you know that one of your primary responsibilities (and one of your challenges) is implementing change.  Whether it’s revising work processes to fit today’s environment, learning about new technologies that impact your business, or simply implementing a new version of existing software, not only is change all around you, but the rate of change is growing exponentially.  And unfortunately, any change effort will come up against a small fraction of people who will resist it.  Change is inevitable, but unless you actively manage the opposition, your change effort can lose momentum and fall off the rails.  So what can you do to deliberately and purposefully bring your resistors on board?  I’ll give you two specific ideas today, and later this week, I’ll give you three more.

  1. Give people the “big picture”.  One of employees’ biggest frustrations about change is that sometimes it feels like it’s done just for the sake of doing something in the short-term, and not necessarily with an overall long-term objective in mind.  When that happens, people view the change simply as an inconvenience to them as individuals.  Instead, take the time to show people that what they view as a hassle is actually beneficial some place else, and to the organization as a whole.  Tie the change to an overall advantage.  Which leads me right into the second strategy.
  2. Give factual information.  Offer evidence that shows that the change is valuable for the company.  If you have hard data, share it.  If there are other individuals who have gone through similar change efforts, hold them up as examples of success.

Check in on Thursday and I’ll offer you three more specific suggestions for how you can get your people to stop fighting change and perhaps even help you implement it!  In the meantime, do you have any suggestions?

What is so difficult about motivating employees?

If you’re a manager or supervisor, then you know that reward and recognition matters! The problem is that your good intentions don’t always translate into action. Motivating employees can be a difficult task, and believe it or not, increasing their salary is not the solution! And when you take today’s business environment characterized by tight budgets and fewer resources into account, the challenge becomes even more overwhelming.

What obstacles do YOU face when it comes to motivating your employees? Do you struggle with finding the time and the means to acknowledge and recognize those who deserve it?  What gets in the way of you taking steps to ignite your team and encourage high-performance? Ask your tough questions at, and I’ll do my best to answer as many as I can in my live Audio Conference coming up on May 12.

Volcano eruptions; European travel; lessons in leadership

CancelledAah … the adventures of world travel!  Last week was an “interesting” week for me on the travel front! I was speaking at a client event in the UK from Monday to Wednesday and was scheduled to return to Canada on Thursday.  I awoke Thursday morning to a series of email notes advising me that my flight from London to Calgary was delayed and potentially cancelled due to “volcanic activity”.  After I confirmed that this wasn’t a typo (after all, volcanic activity is not what one expects to encounter in London!), I rapidly started considering alternatives.  Unfortunately, there weren’t many – it was expected that within hours, all north and west European airspace would be closed – so I moved towards trying to secure accommodation for the next few days.  I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I was going to be stranded in London for at least a couple of days (I had no inkling at that point that a couple of days was a gross underestimation given how extensive and far-reaching this issue has become), but unbeknownst to me, the airline travel gods were smiling down upon me, and I was destined to become one VERY lucky girl.  I got out of London by the skin of my teeth!  I was on the THIRD-LAST plane to depart London before Heathrow airport shut down at noon that day.  Yup, the very airport that shut down on Thursday at noon AND has not reopened since!  I say lucky, but the truth is that luck was only a small fraction of my ultimate success.  In fact, it was incredible effort and hard work of over half-a-dozen individuals that got me out of London on Thursday and back on the North American continent almost 18 hours later!  Here’s my story. Continue reading

How to motivate people on a shoestring budget

If you’re a manager or supervisor, then you know that recognizing and rewarding your employees is important, but in today’s fast-paced workplace, your good intentions may not always translate into action. The good news is that IS possible to acknowledge and appreciate those who deserve it, WITHOUT spending a fortune! Motivating employees can be a challenging task, and believe it or not, increasing their salary is not the solution! If you’ve attended one of my leadership development seminars, or if you’re a long-time reader of this blog or my print column, you might recall me mention a series of experiments conducted in the late 1920s by Harvard Business School professor Elton Mayo. Seeking to establish the relationship between work conditions and productivity, Mayo looked at the effect of fatigue and monotony on job productivity. At the time, his results were surprising, but today, we know that Mayo had simply discovered a fundamental concept in leadership: that workplaces are social environments. This age-old wisdom is particularly useful if you happen to be a manager or supervisor who faces a shortage of time or money. For six low-cost timeless ideas to motivate people on a shoestring budget (and more about Elton Mayo’s groundbreaking experiment), read this article I wrote back in November 2006: Rewarding Employees.

Communicating with empathy and understanding works!

So … I teach others how to communicate effectively in the workplace, but that doesn’t mean that I always practice what I teach!  Occasionally, I get so spitting mad at a person or a situation that everything I know just evaporates from my mind.  And that’s exactly what happened to me last Wednesday night!  I was doing some late-night online banking (don’t you just love the Internet!) and I noticed an unexpected fee in one of my accounts.  I called my bank’s 24-hour Customer Service centre and explained my situation to the young man who answered the phone.  Within a few minutes, things went downhill.  Without going into the gory details, the customer “service” rep was condescending, he didn’t listen well, and our conversation ended with him lecturing me about how I should be better educated about the inner workings of my accounts.  Granted, he was probably right on the last point, but as I’ve said over and over again – it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it!  Anyway, unfortunately, I let his superior attitude get to me, and before I knew it, I lost my cool!  By the time I hung up the phone, not only was I no closer to a resolution that when I first placed the call, but I was so furious that steam was coming out of my ears, and I knew that I simply couldn’t let this go! Continue reading

Reprogram your vending machine

Vending_MachinesThink about a vending machine that dispenses candy and snacks.  You insert your money, input the displayed product code, and the machine dispenses your treat.  If you selected a chocolate bar, then you’d expect that chocolate bar, and if you selected a bag of potato chips, then you’d expect that bag of potato chips.  And normally, because the vending machine has been programmed to deliver a product according to the code you input, that’s exactly what happens.  But what if a vending machine manufacturer accessed the inner workings of that vending machine overnight and reprogrammed it so that the code and product selections were all mixed up?  Now keying in a specific code for a chocolate bar results in a roll of breath mints, and inputting the code for a bag of potato chips results in a package of cookies!  What would happen in such a scenario? Continue reading

The business case for not solving the problem

Most leaders will tell you that they value independent thinking and initiative. Yet, inadvertently, many supervisors and managers discourage such behaviour. How? By taking over instead of pushing back.

Consider this scenario. An employee comes into your office with an issue regarding some aspect of his job responsibilities, looking for you to resolve his predicament. And like any good manager, you, the person with the experience, the knowledge, and the job title, give him the solution. But is that necessarily the best approach? By taking over, you are discouraging your employee from thinking independently and showing initiative.  Good leadership requires that you push back: that you withhold your response and curb your action; that you push the employee to take ownership of the problem and thus also, ownership of the solution.  For four compelling reasons, and tips to make it happen, read the entire article in the March/April issue of CGA Magazine here.

All it takes is one …

View of Manhattan from my W Hoboken hotel room
View of Manhattan from my W Hoboken hotel room

A couple of weeks ago, I stayed at the uber-posh W Hotel in Hoboken NJ, directly across the river from Manhattan NY.  The W chain prides itself on being very hip, a little unconventional, and oh-so-very customer-focused.  All of which I thoroughly enjoyed.  From the comfy bed, luxurious towels and in-room Bliss toiletries to the neon-shaded lobby, rock music in the elevators, and art-deco furniture in the lounge, I soaked it all in.  It tickled my fancy that they changed the floor mats in the elevators three times a day; depending on when you stepped in, the mats boldly said “Good morning”, “Good afternoon”, or “Good night”.  And my favourite part: their signature phrase.  When you call any hotel department, the phone is answered with a cheery “Whatever, whenever”, which reflects their exceptional attitude and commitment to customer service.  And true to their word, during my 3-day stay there, I experienced their Whatever, Whenever service over and over again.  That is, with one notable exception. Continue reading