I Need an Old Priest and a Young Priest
March 26, 2007
I need to perform an exorcism. I have evil demons stirring within my department, interfering with forward progress and not allowing innovation and creativity to fully bloom. I guarantee I am not the only department manager who has had to deal with these demons and I am sure, upon further inspection, you may find one or two lurking in the dark corners of your own departments.
I am talking about those “ghosts of time past.” You know, those “five years ago we did this” demons. Those demons of time gone by who still creep into the conversation and thwart all attempts at change and progress.
I have a good number of staff who have been working in the department for many years. Most of them embrace and roll with change. But there are one or two or three who just can’t seem to take the leap of faith and trust that while it may not work, it is worth trying.
So how do we deal with these ugly demons? Is an exorcism really necessary? In short, yes, sometimes an abrupt, swift, mildly painful, mostly dramatic change (or kick in the pants) is just what the doctor (or in this case priest) ordered to help move change along.
As managers, we can’t force a person’s personality to undergo a radical transformation, however what we can do is force a procedural or environmental change that in turn allows a person to adapt at their own pace. Sometimes this is fast and sometimes it is not as fast as we would like it. I have found that if I can make a great case for a change and get good staff buy-in, attitudes adjust a lot quicker than they would normally.
I have also found that being honest helps a transition tremendously. If it is not going as planned then be upfront and open about the situation and solicit feedback from staff in order to make the necessary adjustments. Making staff feel like they are part of the process of change instead of dictating it to them yields very positive results and can make the experience a lot less painful.
Still, there will always be one or two people who are still possessed by “the way it was” demon. A lot of this attitude may be formed by past experiences with new services or procedures that did not go over well. Never underestimate the traumatic value that one bad experience can leave on a person. I take the initial hand holding and constant positive reinforcement/feedback approach when dealing with these individuals. Again, the rate of change acceptance varies from person to person, but this approach makes people feel valued rather than steam rolled.
So what are your approaches to forcing a change and/or dealing with staff who are change averse?