In April, I visited Halifax, Nova Scotia. As I drove from the airport, I noticed Spring for Nova Scotia was just beginning. Spring was about three or four weeks behind where we were on the West Coast. The difference reminded me that readiness for change is like the emergence of spring across the country.
Not everyone will be at the same level of readiness at the same time.
The Initiator of Change Starts Sooner
As a leader, you initiate most organizational changes. Some of the changes you initiate may be big, like launching a new strategic direction. Or they could be smaller changes like modifying a process or hiring a new employee.
Regardless, just like spring starts sooner for me on Vancouver Island, the initiator of any change starts their transition before others in the organization. The failure to recognize and acknowledge the lag time is one reason many organizational change initiatives fail.
Stop Labeling the Lag Time as Resistance
It would be silly to label the Maritimes or any other area of the country as resistant to change because their spring was not proceeding on the same timeline as mine. Or to decide the tulips that had yet to bloom in my mom’s garden were resistant to spring because the tulips in my friend’s garden in Toronto were already in bloom.
Yet, that’s what’s happening in many organizations. You label the employees who are not demonstrating the expected amount of enthusiasm, asking too many questions or are slow to embrace the idea of change as resistant.
You mistake the lag time between your level of readiness and that of your employees as resistance. When that happens, it’s easy to set in motion a toxic cycle of change grounded in the belief that people resist change. Which then sabotages your current and future change efforts.
Breaking the Cycle of Resistance to Change
It is possible to break the cycle and prevent resistance to change. The first step is recognizing if you are working with a resistant mindset. You are working with a resistant mindset if you:
- Believe people (human beings) resist change
- Believe one of the most significant barriers to change is resistance
- Believe your role as a leader is to manage and overcome employee resistance
- Become frustrated when people give “negative” feedback and appear to criticize the change
- Set a timeline for the change to be completed without knowing the level of readiness of the change recipients
- Communicate based on what you want them to know about the change event
The second step is to adopt a Readiness Mindset™ and approach to leading and enabling change in your organization.
Readiness drives the pace of every change, whether in nature or in your organization. We can’t move faster than our level of preparedness. That’s why adopting a Readiness Mindset is so powerful. Breaking the toxic cycle of change can only be done when you focus on building readiness.
5 Things that happen when you adopt a Readiness Mindset:
- You understand that people will move toward change when they believe it’s needed; they feel prepared, capable, and supported.
- As a leader you understand your role is to create the conditions that build readiness, reduce discomfort, and help your people navigate their journey to the desired outcome.
- You don’t get hung up on questions or comments. With a Readiness Mindset you know that questions or comments are feedback not push back. They are tools you can use to assess readiness and adjust your planning and support.
- The ability to pivot. You can create a timeline and a flexible plan that reflects your team’s level of readiness and can pivot and still keep moving toward the outcome to match the level of readiness.
- You know that the way you lead the current change will impact readiness for any future changes.
It may seem counterintuitive but focusing on building readiness instead of managing resistance enables easier, faster, and more stable change.