In the drivers’ seat

“Real change is always up close and personal. Accepting and embracing this change requires openness and a willingness to transform.”
 
Our first reactions to change or dramatic news are denial and resistance. This is often followed by anxiety, apathy and grief. After a while we begin to explore the possibilities, and consider accepting the change.
 
When dealing with change from the top, leaders often fail to realize that they are ahead of this reaction curve to change.

“Imagine that senior management is sitting in the driver’s seat of a train,” says Sue Dewhurst, internal communications consultant. “They have control over where the train goes, how fast it goes and whether or where it stops. When they describe their vision of change, it’s extremely clear to them because they can see the way ahead out of the driver’s window.

Leaders are driving the train of change

The people most affected by the change are in the tenth carriage of the train, where life feels very different. They have no control over where the train goes, and they can’t see the same view of what’s ahead as the driver can, and they are much further back on the tracks.”

I recall one change project where a dramatic reorganization was announced – and eighteen months later employees in the US were still waiting to learn the details of how this would affect their jobs and daily work. In that case senior management was 18 months ahead in the change process while their people were still waiting on the platform.

For communicative leaders it is also crucial to realize that awareness of the need for change doesn’t automatically translate into a commitment to turn change into new opportunities. There’s no easy shortcut between announcement and acceptance.

Awareness must first turn into a desire to support and participate in the change. It can take hours, days or even weeks to reach that level of acceptance.

Then you still need to learn how and what to change. What behaviors are appropriate? How have roles and processes changed? What can I do to make a difference? Armed with that knowledge you will develop the ability to implement new skills and behaviors.