Five Ways to Influence Change in Others
by Kevin Eikenberry
Because of my work as a consultant, trainer and coach I deal with change and people’s reactions to it all the time. When a Client decides to work with us, they are recognizing that some sort of change is needed. After all, if they want more effective teams, better Customer Service, higher creativity, more effective training, or more effective leadership in their organizations, something has to become different than it is currently. Change must occur.
Because of this, change is often at the center of our work, and we’ve learned a fair bit about it. In short, here are two of the most important things I have learned about change:
• People don’t resist change, they resist being changed.
• Regardless of our position, we become significantly more effective when we understand change and how to influence it in others.
Most people nod their head at the first one when I mention it, but some scratch their head at the second. So let’s start there.
Why Does It Matter?
All of us have parts of our jobs where we need to influence others to think differently or to behave differently – in other words we need to be able to influence change.
Think about it this way.
Whether you are a janitor, salesperson, Customer service professional, trainer, first line supervisor, manager, leader, or C-level executive, are there times when you encounter resistance to your ideas, approaches, and expertise? In these cases, does your job get easier and would the organization benefit when you are successful in getting others to make those changes?
We can, in fact, all be more effective in our work when we better understand how to influence change in others. The scope of the change doesn’t matter. Some of us are proposing or leading big sweeping organizational changes, while others are making small procedure changes. All of us need to support and champion changes, and therefore benefit from greater skills and understanding in this area.
Resistance is a Key
There are many factors or levers to influencing change, but one of the key ones is reflected by my first lesson mentioned above – “people don’t resist change, they resist being changed.”
If we want to help people change, we have to help them decide the change is in their best interest. We have to influence people, not force change upon them.
Here are five things you can do, starting right now, to influence change in others:
• “Get” their perspective. Your perspective, goals and belief in the change don’t really matter. All that matters is the perspective and beliefs of the other person. We must start by understanding their view of the world. Determine their concerns, fears and assumptions regarding the change. Doing this will definitely help you counter some of these concerns. But the real benefit in truly understanding their perspective is that you are valuing their opinion and they will feel they are a part of a conversation, not a sales pitch.
• Acknowledge their perspective. You may not agree with their assumptions or share their fears and concerns, but you can acknowledge how they feel. Let them know that you understand their point of view and that it is a valid view. Part of the reason people resist being changed is that they never feel validated or acknowledged. Forgo this step at your peril.
• Speak to their interests. Once you know more about their issues and concerns you can help them see a different perspective. By acknowledging their perspective as a valid one, their mind will likely be more open to hearing a new perspective. Talk to them about the differences in your perspectives. Reduce their fears. Build a clearer picture of the future after the change, explaining the parts of it that will be of greatest interest and benefit in their mind.
• Recognize natural tendencies. Everyone has their own natural tendencies towards change. Some are more open and move more quickly to a new approach or system. Others are more cautious. If you often find yourself as the influencer of change, perhaps you are in the later group. Be aware that not everyone will move at the same rate.
• Be patient. Give people some time. Let them reflect on what you have shared with them. Give them time to justify a new position in their mind. Recognize that by giving people time it may also help them “save face” as they begin to advocate a change that they had previously opposed.
With these five approaches you give yourself a better chance to influence others to change. Each of these alone will help you – but taken together they greatly reduce resistance and help others move towards a changed perspective and actions. At a minimum you will have reduced people’s resistance to change. At best they won’t feel they are being changed – they will recognize the change as their own.
Kevin Eikenberry is a leadership expert and the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group (http://KevinEikenberry.com), a learning consulting company. To receive a free Special Report on leadership that includes resources, ideas, and advice go to http://www.kevineikenberry.com/leadership.asp or call us at (317) 387-1424 or 888.LEARNER.