EXPERT OPINION If your employees resist change, you’re going about it wrong
Deadline-focused scientists often resist taking the time to learn new technology – especially if it will expose their unfinished research to colleagues. Global change expert and clinical psychiatrist Leandro Herrero explains how leaders can help their researchers embrace efficiency-boosting change.
The idea that people – including scientists – resist change is a widely accepted belief. It’s also complete nonsense. We change all the time. We leave our homes and go to school, then to college. We marry, have children, change jobs. We voluntarily travel, learn new languages, taste new foods. We line up to buy the newest technology.
So where did this idea that people resist change come from? Based on nearly two decades of change-management experience with dozens of companies, including many in scientific fields, I believe resistance comes when change is not chosen but is imposed upon us.
Consider the introduction of new technology in the workplace. Usually, it is introduced with the promise that it will make work better or faster. Still, many employees resist. Why? Because even if the benefit to the organization is obvious, the proposed change creates no clear benefit for the individual.
Take the example of a Customer Relationship Management system. If you’re asked to input information without any return, you won’t use it. If entering the data competes with 20 other behaviors that do have an immediate benefit – meeting a deadline, finishing a deliverable – you will do those things instead.
“Resistance comes when change is not chosen but is imposed upon us.”MANAGING Partner, Viral Change Global, AND CO-FOUNDER, THE CHALFONT PROJECT
If you are a leader who needs to implement change, how should you go about it? Start by recruiting the unofficial leaders in your company – people who are widely respected by their peers – to model the behavior. Ask your middle managers who these leaders are and you’ll have the names in about a minute. Then engage them in a conversation that is logical and emotional and starts from the humble position that you need their help. As these unofficial leaders embrace the change and are observed by their peers, they set fires at the grassroots.
Each fire starts another and another until soon the entire mountain is ablaze. Convince 50 people who are respected by their peers to embrace your change, and soon everyone will be onboard.
“Convince 50 people who are respected by their peers to embrace your change, and soon everyone will be onboard.”MANAGING Partner, Viral Change Global, AND CO-FOUNDER, THE CHALFONT PROJECT
As consultants, we’ve been using this method for 15 years. It has never failed. So remember: Don’t impose change. Let the peers your employees admire demonstrate with their behavior why change is good, and change will come. ◆Back to top
Leandro Herrero is a clinical psychologist, managing partner of Viral Change Global LLP, and co-founder of The Chalfont Project Ltd. (www.thechalfontproject.com), an international consulting firm specialized in organizational strategy, change management, leadership and innovation.
Hear Leandro Herrero talk about instituting change : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iStEUTbhCo4