The Secret to Achieving Real Change


Do you know what questions to ask to generate real change? And just as importantly, do you know who to ask?

If you have ever tried to spearhead change, you may know how hard it can be. Whether it’s a personal change (e.g. aiming to eat healthier or worry less), or an organisational change (redefining a company culture for example), resistance is common. No matter the positive benefits that the change may bring about, or the desperate need for it to happen for long term success (or survival), resistance to change is one of the biggest issues. There will be a lot of reasons cited for this resistance, but ultimately most of them come down to one thing: fear.

People are scared of change because they don’t know what it will mean for them. On a personal level changing the way you eat may mean you spend less time socially with friends eating out, or worrying less may mean you don’t anticipate something that could hurt you. On an organisational level fear is often driven by job security; ‘if X changes, I don’t know how I’ll fit in’. Unfortunately it seems that no matter how positive the change will be, if there’s fear, it will usually dominate and create resistance.

One of the key questions to ask as an employer therefore, is; ‘what are you afraid of?’ Not necessarily in those exact words, but finding ways to elicit people’s fears and identify constructive ways of addressing them will be one of the most effective ways to manage the fear and generate real change.  If, for example, an organisation is merging and employees fear they may lose their jobs as a result, this needs to be addressed, ideally in as positive a light as possible. If any fears raised do have a basis in reality, this needs to be acknowledged and effectively managed; lying or hiding information will only foster distrust which will only help create more resistance. At least if negative consequences are acknowledged and explored, employees will have the opportunity to take proactive action and retain some level of control.

The other major issue to consider is who to ask. Assumptions are typically made that senior level executives are the driving force behind change, and hence they are the ones that require the most involvement. However the reality is that it is the workers on ‘the shop floor’ that will be the real agents of change, and without their buy in, implementing any new processes or approaches will be a continual struggle. So when you are in the flux of change, always ask your frontline employees for their input, and always ask what it is they fear. Once you have this information, use it wisely and support, rather than force, them through the process and it will be a much smoother experience for all.