The 3-Step Method to Overcoming Resistance to Change in Your Promotional Products Business
We resist change for all kinds of reasons. Chief among them is not our discomfort, nor even our fear of loss, but a far more powerful fear: uncertainty.
Change creates uncertainty.
It’s why people often prefer to remain “mired in misery than to head toward an unknown.”
Subconsciously, we resist change out of fear: Fear that we are going to be rendered obsolete. Fear that this change will make our lives harder. Fear that we’ll not adapt to the new changes. But mostly, fear about the unknown ahead.
Whether you’re the leader of a billion-dollar company, the sales director for a three-person sales team or the manager of a production department, knowing why your organization fights change is critical, because it’s crucial to growth. “Change is a messy, collaborative, inspiring, difficult, and ongoing process—like everything meaningful that leads to human progress,” writes Beth Comstock in her book "Imagine it Forward."
And as we covered in our last post, change is also not just a one-and-done experience. For a growing company, change is a rhythm to adopt, not a battle to win.
To overcome resistance to change, leaders should “create certainty of process, with clear, simple steps and timetables.” How?
Here is a simple three-step method to making change much, much easier. But, fair warning: Do not take any one of these steps out of context or pick and choose. All three steps combined are the magic that help you overcome any resistance to change.
1. Share [SIMPLY & CLEARLY] why
In "Imagine it Forward," Beth Comstock wrote “strategy is a story well told.” Anytime you are about to make a change, the “why” must be clear and simple.
You cannot skip to the what or how without the why. “Tell me the why and I’ll figure out how,” is a mantra that ripples through every employee’s mind.
And no long-drawn-out dissertations about why, no speculation, no worrisome wandering, just the facts, told through the lens of a why. Examples:
- “We are going to change our ______ because _______.”
- “When we are done with this transition, we will be able to do _____ faster, easier, and with less confusion. Your life will be simpler, easier, and you’ll be able to accomplish _____.”
- “This change won’t solve all our problems but what it will resolve is _____ and _____, and because those factors are so important to our ______, we’re going to make this change.”
Paint a small portrait of what the world will look like when you’ve made the change—but make it simple. No elaborate visions, no colorful commentary, just clear and simple benefits.
2. Share WHEN
“Just look for a strong beginning and a strong ending and get moving.”
That’s advice from by Chip and Dan Heath in their book "Switch (How to Change Things When Change is Hard)."
An unclear deadline creates analysis paralysis.
When Mark Freed was ready to retire from the most successful distributorship in Canada and one of the largest in North America (Genumark), he knew a succession plan needed a goal line, otherwise, both he and his leadership team would get mired in the details. So, he set a firm date for the change and everything advanced toward that goal. Mark pointed at the destination along the horizon and said “we are going there, and we’ll be there by ____.”
Imagine pointing at that destination on the horizon and then telling your team, “we’re going there … eventually … maybe next fall … maybe spring.”
Uncertainty breeds more uncertainty.
3. Script the Critical Moves
All leaders need to hear this lesson from the Heath brothers' book:
“A compelling vision is critical. But it’s not enough …. the hardest part of change—the paralyzing part—is precisely in the details. Ambiguity is the enemy. Any successful change requires a translation of ambiguous goals into concrete behaviors. In short, to make a switch, you need to script the critical moves.”
Note: The critical moves (not every single move in detail). By lining out a game plan for the transition, in broad-brushed strokes, you shrink the change.
Example: If you are going to change your software, using the steps above, share why, share when, and then script the critical moves: We’ll begin on ___, training will last for _____, we’ll be fully operational in two days, and by week two, everyone will have tasted success with the new system.
Scripting the critical moves is crucial because you can’t leave blanks (uncertainty) open or your team will fill it with fears because fears will flood your plans if your plan is left empty.
NEWSFLASH: It’s Not the 'Change' Your Team Resists
In our previous post, we shared how self-limiting beliefs sabotage change in your promotional products business.
But it’s also crucial to know that people don’t resist change because they are resistant people, but rather, they work in resistant circumstances. In our industry: always-pressing deadlines, production problems, seasons of growth, all of these factors create resistant circumstances.
Less Ross, the Stanford psychologist, calls this the fundamental attribution error. “Much misunderstanding is caused by a general tendency to attribute human behavior to personalities, rather than to external circumstances.” Or from the Heath brothers again: “What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem.”
How does this help us? It helps to know you’re not fighting a resistance movement. It helps to know you’re not battling a brick wall. It helps to know that the very environment that resists change is the environment you will improve because of the change. And it helps to know it’s a natural force of resistance that can be overcome.
You will meet resistance. Period. Know this. Knowing this allows you to plan, prepare and execute anyway, because once you simply explain why, clearly share when, and then script the critical moves, the greatly feared “Big Change” suddenly becomes ... small change.
This article was originally published in commonsku and was made available through a reciprocal content partnership with Promo Marketing. commonsku is the work-from-anywhere platform that powers your connected workflow enabling you to process more orders and dramatically grow your sales. To learn more or to begin your free trial now, visit commonsku.com.