Purging the meeting of the Pesky Pachyderm
There’s an elephant lurking in our office. Some say it’s pink and others claim they’ve seen it parading in the corridor wearing a top-hat. What is certain is that this big grey idea invading our comfort zones is very real.
In every company there is that topic that, once mentioned, is followed by an uncomfortable silence. When brought up, your team may even develop a sudden interest in whatever happens to be in their laps at the time in order to avoid making eye contact with one another.
Change management is no exception. Our particularly plucky pachyderm is the underlying cynicism and passive resistance to change. When the elephants of cynicism and passive resistance are taking a place in the room, open dialogue is the key to removing their presence and executing effective change management.
So what are these elephants?
“Here we go again” becomes the catch phrase of many employees. They become cynical towards change as time progresses due to a phenomenon known as ‘change fatigue’ where too many unnecessary changes lead employees to see change as the ‘flavour of the month’. The problem arises because most employees will not let their manager in on their new slogan and by failing to air their objections they begin feeding our tusked companion.
The second elephant is the passive resistance to change. Passive resistance comes in many forms. It can range from a poor attitude to sloppy work which is filled with errors. However, dealing with this specific elephant can be uncomfortable. For instance, when you need to give one of your best employees a hard time for a lack of enthusiasm when you yourself are facing the same problem.
The point is that if these issues are not addressed on time, and effectively, then they will cause problems to the company in the near future. Dealing with these two issues are critical. Not only can they ruin the whole desired change, but they are also an unnecessary drain of time, money, and more importantly, morale.
Now, dear reader, you may be noticing a pattern. Both elephants have a common root- there is nothing that breeds elephants faster than a lack of communication between leadership and team members.
However, before I address the what the barrier is of effective communication, I’d like to clarify a common misconception. Communication and engagement are not the same thing. I could write a whole article on this distinction alone, but the point I want to make is that telling someone and discussing it with them are two entirely different actions.
The inherent barrier to addressing the elephant in many organisations is out of touch leadership. I am sure many of you can picture this scenario:
A team meeting is being held regarding the new change which is to be implemented and the second it begins team members start making eye contact with one another. Some subtle, others not so subtly start rolling their eyes. The CEO or VP is not an idiot and is slightly annoyed, but nevertheless carries on describing the proposed change. An elephant is born. Management has failed to engage the workforce and the change process, barely a day old, has already spawned a grey, trumpeting creature.
Tackle the tusker.
In order to create as few elephants as possible it is vital to acknowledge the problems before they grow. Address the uncertainty surrounding the change and show the team why this is the best way forward.
A step that I will always advise companies to take is to engage your team and include them in designing the change process, simply because if a person has an understanding of what is going on around him, and why it is taking place, the change has meaning to them. The journey is less daunting if you’re in the driver’s seat.
By simply engaging our teams, finding out their desired outcome and involving them in the design process, we may be able to reduce the number of elephants in the office quite significantly.