I recently read a McKinsey study that stated, among other things, “When we choose for ourselves, we are far more committed to the outcome – almost by a factor of five to one.” This is one of the best arguments I’ve heard for engaging employees to drive change.

Early on in my leadership career, I thought I was doing my team a favor when I documented in detail every step they were to use when engaging our client groups. After all, they were busy, and I was there to make their jobs easier. It was a complete failure. Nobody on my team used the new process, and we continued to underperform.

When you don’t effectively engage your employees to drive change, you will experience the following:
– Resistance: Whether intentional or not, and whether active or passive, employees reject the change. They simply don’t buy in and they don’t execute accordingly.
– Lack of progress: Deadlines are missed, customer expectations aren’t fulfilled and value is not achieved.
– Deflection and defection: Employees deflect responsibility for one reason or another, or they completely defect from the change.
– It doesn’t stick. The changes you are trying to make simply don’t stick. It becomes nearly impossible to institutionalize the change.

Continuing my story, my ah-ha moment came when one of my team suggested one or two changes that would help make the process more effective. This caused me to change my entire approach. I brought the team together for a half day offsite meeting and asked them to document the process. The results were 180 degrees different than my previous attempt. The team immediately began using the new process, and our client groups quickly saw the difference.

Here are a few techniques you can use to successfully engage your employees to drive change.
– Ask them to design the solution. As in my example, clearly define the end state, but let the team determine to best achieve the outcomes desired.
– Listening sessions. Communications is a two-way street. People need to know they are being heard, and you need to act on what you hear.
– Change agent networks. Establish a group of influential front-line employees to help define and communicate the change.

The underlying design principle of any of these approaches should be to give employees the latitude, within certain parameters, to choose for themselves what to implement, when and how. This will create the greatest degree of engagement, which in turn creates a change that is more likely to succeed, therefore giving you greater value.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,
Steve

 

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