When leading change, it’s important to ensure your key players are on board and helping you to sell the change message. But who are the most important people in your team to engage in change early? Why does this make a difference?
Who are the key players?
I like to think of three groups of ‘key players’ in managing change. Your influencers, your change adverse, and your change lovers. They are all influential, but all different in HOW they influence. You’ll need a strong communications strategy to engage with these three critical groups to give you maximum change impact.
They’re are the people peers go to when they have a problem – they are trusted – and when the peer group look for guidance, these are the people that determine and influence how ideas are accepted (or rejected!). You want your influencers to hear the change message first. These people are usually also close to you, trusted and honest, and you need them to help build the details of your change strategy. They’ll help uncover any gaps you may have missed, and give you an early indication of how the group are likely to receive your change message. Allay their fears, address their questions honestly, and let this group have a hand in shaping change. Don’t be afraid to tell them you need their help with this change, they’ll love the additional influential impact it brings to them!
The Change Adverse
These are your team members that you know typically fear and resist change. They might have been around a long time, be a bit cynical, or just don’t like change. They can be a major obstacle to a successful change program in your business, but if you engage them correctly, they can also be a powerful ally. These people worry about the impact to people (both staff and customers) for changes, so your message must address these concerns head on. How will this be better for our people and better for our customers? Work groups that bring together these people with your influencers will help them to express their fears and talk through the details proposed. You need enough ‘change ready’ people in the group to ensure things stay positive, but should encourage open discussion. Winning this group will reduce resistance to change significantly, removing undermining undercurrents and rumours early in the change process.
The Change Lovers
The innovators and big thinkers in your team, these people love the new things in your business, and new, shiny things in general. They readily accept and often embrace or drive change, knowing that it also generates new opportunities. This group will help to emphasise the positive impacts of the change you are proposing. Already enthusiastic, you need them to understand and be talking about the key messages of the change program to tackle any negativity amongst the troops. This group will help you spread the message quickly – they will be excited – and any change announcement that you make will usually trigger a post-announcement peer clarification session (read: gossip!). With this group ahead of the formal announcement, they will be a positive sounding board for any who reach out with concerns.
Change requires strategic, planned communications and engagement to succeed. Knowing WHO will play a key role and WHEN to message to them will help your change to be successful and long lasting. Go to your influencers to clarify ideas, get your change adverse involved to allay fears, then your change lovers to message to peers.