“This project will be a failure, and we want no part of it.” – Statement by the head of a union representing 85% of the stakeholders in one client’s major transformation.

I love a challenge. In this case, we absolutely needed this group to be successful. The project sponsors and I determined how we were going to engage this group, and we knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We formulated a simple but effective strategy:

1. Listen to their concerns
2. Resolve their issues
3. Describe the need for their engagement, and then engage them in the change
4. Hold them accountable

Listen: Advocacy of a change is important to help employees hear how things will be different. Inquiring of them what they see as obstacles is also important. When leaders listen to their employees, they provide a forum where employees feel more valued. If you haven’t done this in a while, at first it might seem like a forum for whining. Over time as you listen carefully and respond thoughtfully, “whining” will give way to constructive thought and dialog.

Resolve: Listening is great, but if you don’t resolve concerns, over time you will lose credibility. My advice to leaders? Don’t be overwhelmed by this. Every question that comes your way won’t result in a major project. Few if any do. Most can be addressed immediately. Some might require research and/or delegation. Do it. Your credibility will go way up.

Engage: Few things are more powerful than telling an employee, or group of employees, that you need their help for the organization to be successful. This coupled with a pragmatic approach to involving them can have a huge impact on the success of the change. It can also have a huge impact on the long-term institutionalization of the change. If the front-line is involved in driving the change, they’ll be more likely to make sure it lives long after implementation.

Accountability: This is where the need for structure meets the need for behavioral engagement. It’s critical for senior leaders to hold employees accountable to deliver and sustain the change. Project plans, progress reports, and metrics help monitor this. Use them.

Leaders galvanize their team when they listen with intent, resolve with sincerity, engage with purpose and hold employees accountable. Learn more about managing resistance to change by participating in my Activate program. Click to learn more.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,
Steve

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