Anyone remember ‘Magic Eye’ pictures… or more precisely, autostereograms? You know, those two dimensional patterns that allow some people to see the hidden 3-D images contained inside the picture. The trick is to shift your gaze. I often think it must have been really difficult to sell the concept – especially if your prospective client was someone who just didn’t get it… ‘Really, that is a penguin juggling a white rabbit!’
And like the picture of the conjuring penguin, engaging people during times of organisational transition can be just as much of a hard-sell. Change can be uncomfortable for most folks, especially if it’s imposed and not chosen. Merger. New CEO. Restructure. He-l-lo Dotty… suddenly you and the dog aren’t in Kansas, any more! It’s clear that change remains a feature of the corporate landscape as economic, technological and demographic shifts continue to affect the way we work and interact with one another. Still, it can be pretty difficult to rally the troops when said troops are – for dear life – hanging on to the rug management have just pulled out from under their feet.
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘stakeholder engagement’, but in badly-led organisations that boils down to a few road shows and a set of PowerPoint slides for managers who are so busy, they think ‘reply all’ equals ‘reaching hearts and minds’. And if you think I am making this up, then just consider the example of The Accident Group (TAG) who, in 2003, fired 2,400 people by text message when the company went bust here in the UK. Change is as much about communicating the art of the possible, as it is about making people do or believe something different.
So, how can you get the best out of people affected by change? The trick is to shift your gaze. This is what separates good change agents from the masters. Good change agents know they need to communicate clearly, and so they ask questions, identify the issues, and then tailor their words to the audience in question. Masterful change managers go one step further…they try to understand the other person’s perspective before they communicate. Perspective is a gift – it can show you new ways of looking at old problems, and it can help you to see where your employees are coming from when the CEO launches the latest change initiative. This doesn’t mean that you will see eye-to-eye with everyone who is part of the change process – this is the real world, not Oz – but making an authentic effort to stand in someone else’s shoes for a while, may mean they walk with you.