Navigating change: Three types of people you’ll encounter

The reason change often fails is that it comes from the standpoint of assuming that change can be managed simply by changing structural or strategic aspects of the business, and that people will get on board with the change. 

Navigating change: Three types of people you'll encounter

The reason change often fails is that it comes from the standpoint of assuming that change can be managed simply by changing structural or strategic aspects of the business, and that people will get on board with the change. 

However, change isn’t sustainable without individuals changing their thinking, beliefs and behaviour. Simply put, companywide change, is just individual change – at scale. 

To drive change that lasts, it’s imperative to first understand people’s behaviour and their motivations for change. You can then communicate change in a way that connects with, and influences, each group. In any business – there’s usually three main groups. 

The resisters 

Who am I? I’m the skeptical one in your organisation. The one who says “Oh great, another change?” My belief is why change something if it isn’t broken. I use sarcasm as my weapon of choice, eye rolls to communicate my disapproval, and will do my best to derail any change, and bring the rest of the team along with me. But can you blame me? I’ve worked here for years, I’ve witnessed the flash in the pan, shiny stuff and been overpromised and underdelivered to on a pretty consistent basis – so why would I get on board with this one? 

Sound familiar? The change resisters in your business talk about change in an unenthusiastic, or even negative way and they won’t have a lot of evidence of self-driven change in their life. They will talk about things staying the same, want to maintain the status quo, and typically just resist and block any change you attempt to roll out. 

It isn’t impossible, but with this group, go slow and steady. It is essential to make the change feel as comfortable as possible by avoiding using words such as “change” “radical” “different” and replacing them with things like “it’s an adjustment” “small tweaks” “not too dissimilar to what you’re doing”. Instead of talking just about the change, focus on the elements that will stay the same regardless of the change.

Be cautious not to write off this group – there are roles in every business that will be suited to people who are more resistant to change. Roles with a lot of repetition, similar activities, a status quo aspect – will all be well suited to this group. 

The evolutionists

Who am I? I’m the one looking for improvements. I’m certainly not radical, but equally I don’t like things to be too traditional. I have worked in the business for a while but in various roles, I like to switch things up every couple of years so I can try my hand at something slightly different. When change happens, I am the first to ask “what is the improvement we are trying to make?” I don’t believe in change for change’s sake. So what’s the improvement, and how can I help? 

Recognise this? The evolutionists in your team will talk about change for improvement’s sake, and they need to see direct improvements relating to any potential change to get on board. 

This group will typically have evidence of how they have implemented changes for the better and will have more open language and body language around change. You can use this to explore what types of change they have embraced in the past, what has worked for them and what hasn’t to tailor your messaging accordingly. 

Because this group sits in the middle of the change scale, they make great change ambassadors to help influence others.

The difference makers

Who am I? I’m the innovator, the change maker, the one excited by anything new and different. I love to be the first to try something, I am a regular in the crowdfunding space trying out the latest new gadget before everyone else. I am sometimes described as a disrupter of the norm. 

I haven’t worked here that long; I like to have as many different work experiences as possible. I put my hand up to be involved in any change, and if change doesn’t happen I know that I will get bored quickly. I already have at least 10 ideas, how quickly can we get started?

Recognise this? The difference makers in your business will talk about being motivated and excited by change, they may even seem radical in their approach and always looking for something new to implement. 

You won’t have any issue engaging this group with change, the challenge will be keeping them engaged long term. A useful technique is to break the change down into several steps of mini change to keep engagement, versus one big change then no change for a period in between.

Difference people appreciate feeling that they are going to be first to market, an innovator, the first to try something, so link this to your change where appropriate.

So, who do you have in each group in your business? 

Change is too disruptive, too expensive, and too impactful on day-to-day business operations to get wrong. By understanding the different groups in your business, and how to alter your communication and change rollout methods accordingly, you will drastically improve your chances of success and change sticking long term.

Laura Weaving
Laura Weaving

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