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Mark Cole: Leading People to Accept Change

By Mark Cole | November 1, 2019
Mark Cole: Leading People to Accept Change

Change is challenging.

One of the things I’ve heard John Maxwell teach about change is that no one really likes to change, not even leaders—unless the change is their idea! As John says, “Most people are more comfortable with old problems than new solutions, because the new represents the unknown.”

It’s awkward to do something new. Like attempting to write with the other hand or playing golf for the first time, when we encounter something foreign it makes us feel uncomfortable and sometimes self-conscious.

As leaders, it’s important to recognize that change is a difficult process for the people we lead. You have to remember they aren’t in your head as you’re dreaming of a better tomorrow, and they can’t see your heart for why things need to change. It’s your job to show them your heart and allow them inside your head.

We all know that change is necessary, but here’s something we can’t ignore: it is vital for your team to accept the change you propose.

Consider these three things as you seek to help your people accept change:

1. Slow down!

If you run too far ahead of your people, it creates an information gap. When people don’t know how to fill that gap, it’s easy for them to develop negative assumptions about your leadership. Those assumptions, in turn, create barriers to change. That’s why it is so important for you to slow down and be available as you seek to initiate change—it gives your people enough time to ask questions and create buy-in for what’s happening.

2. Communicate clearly and simply.

How do you know when your message is clear and simple enough? When the people that hear it can share it with others. That’s the magic! Leaders who effectively communicate their plans for change create advocates who champion those plans to the rest of the team. This enhances unity among the team and multiplies buy-in.

3. Make time for your people to process ideas.

I understand this struggle very well. You see a need for change, so you strategize and analyze for hours until you come up with a good solution, and now you’re ready for action. But when you tell your team, they look at you like you have four heads! That’s because they weren’t with you through the process. Taking action before your key people accept the change will always lead to problems. That’s why it is so important to build in time for them to accept the change.

No matter how good or necessary change is for the organization, it will ultimately fail if your people don’t accept it.

If you want to get the best results from your team, you need to buy into this reality and work hard to help them accept change before asking them to implement it.

Rick Warren says, “The greatest enemy of tomorrow’s success is yesterday’s success.” Each day brings new challenges, and the best teams adapt to those challenges.

The leader who can lead change effectively will produce a team that not only welcomes change, but also champions it with others.

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