A Letter to the Incoming POTUS from A Change Manager

Let me stress from the outset that this is a completely apolitical post. I usually make an undue effort to avoid politics like the plague. However, with only a few short days until voting day, I thought I would share some advice with the candidates and give them some pointers on their way to the Oval office.

So Mr/Mrs President with all the changes that you’re going to have to make, from Congress to the Air Force One lunch menu, who better to help you than us change managers? My view is that while change management is something that we normally discuss in an organizational capacity, we can just as easily translate it to a much bigger level – like how the commander in chief can build trust while implementing change. Change can be a daunting process but the key to managing change is building trust. Without trust, the people will have no motivation to follow your lead.

So here are my 7 Tips to Help Build Trust When Implementing Change for the President of the United States to-be.

1. Leadership must be clear about their intentions

Elaborate rhetoric and empty promises are easy for the people to see through. Instead of delivering motivational speeches, you should seek a message with a balance of substantial information and unambiguous reasons for why change is necessary. Gartner analysts explain “If the delivery of the change process does not include a clear understanding of the implementation mechanism, a communications plan, a marketing effort, incentives for change and a project focus, then the effort is likely to fail”.

2. Do not allow selective bias when taking a stance

In order for change to be fully effective, you need to stand behind the changes. If you stand on the fence on the issue, it raises concerns among the population: why would they trust the changes fully if their President does not? It can be potentially destructive or undermining to national morale.

3. Repeat core messages in interesting ways

Frequency breeds familiarity, and familiarity breeds trust. When a president repeats a message it becomes easier to buy into because it becomes more believable. What this tell us is that the commander-in-chief needs to find new ways to communicate the same core messages. If they simply repeat it in the same way people will eventually lose interest and write the idea off.

 

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4. Communicate why the change is needed rather than give direction

One of the most effective ways in building trust is to invite the people into learning why change is necessary. If you only give the people directions to follow, then they will not have a foundation to come to their own understanding.

5. Raise your levels of expectations for employees

Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. Another way to stand firmly behind change is to raise your expectations of your people’s’ patriotism. At the same time, be mindful of natural resistance to change by setting realistic goals. Early on in the process, resistance to change will interfere with increased expectations which may increase anxiety.

6. Expand lines of communication for internal feedback

It is difficult to build trust if the implementation of change is one-sided. According to Gartner “It is human nature to shift this discomfort to the new system, assuming that it is inhibiting their job, rather than recognizing the elimination of problems they had with the old system. Since most users won’t be actively reminding themselves of the improvements they get with the new system, someone else needs to make the improvements visible”.

Two-way communication lines should include internal feedback to allay employee concerns and fears. Afterwards with consideration to the feedback, it can be looped back to improve specific processes.

7. Encourage more open communication

Open communication, either through integrated social media or routine meetings and public appearances, are great ways to build trust.

 

Now to clarify for some people that may have missed my intention – all these tips, while addressed to the future president of the United States, are a large scale analogy for change managers. Hilary, Donald or Gary, if you are reading this, please don’t interpret this as a message of support for any of you. Nevertheless, I wish you all the best of luck!

Christopher Smith
Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.
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