In Change, Leaders

“Motivation is the art of getting people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it.” – Dwight Eisenhower

I was fortunate enough to be having a conversation with two great clients last week and it was similar to a dozen conversations I’ve heard before.  The main idea of it was that these two people have a lot of great ideas for change in their organizations and they want to be able to announce to everyone that this change is happening and – Presto! – people just automatically do it.

That’s a great theory, and sometimes as leaders it is frustrating that people don’t just “do what they’re told”.  The reality is that doesn’t usually happen.  There are hundreds of factors that contribute to successful change, but here are the two that seem most relevant to my friends’ conversation:

1. People have to be convinced that whatever change process you’re going through is actually going to result in something different than what they have now.  Too often change looks like a whole bunch of work that doesn’t really change much.  We as leaders have to be able to clearly demonstrate that what we want isn’t what we have now.  We have to show them that if they go through the effort of making the change, it’s going to actually change how we do things.

2. People have to be convinced that the change you’ve shown them is actually going to benefit them in some way (What’s In It For Me!).  We can say that people should want to do it because it helps the company be profitable, or helps or serve our customers better, or anything like that.  And maybe those things are true, and maybe that’s why we as the leaders are excited about the change.  The reality is we have to show how those things actually tie to better jobs/lives for our people.

Neither of those things is rocket science; yet as leaders we tend to take both of those things for granted.  Too often we assume that if we tell people a change is important that they’ll just take us at our word.  Too often we assume that the reasons we’re excited about a change will excite them too.  And we’re quite often wrong on both counts.

The next time you’re trying to drive change, think about the picture you’ve painted for your people.  Do they really, clearly understand that this will change how they do business?  Do they really, clearly understand What’s In It For Them?  If you can’t answer a resounding “Yes!” to both of those questions, then you still have work to do.



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