By: Steve Gray
When your business has to change direction, how do you get people on board? How do you win hearts and minds to new strategies?
In a recent post (goo.gl/bujQPl), I blogged about a powerful principle that helps. It goes like this: “The only thing that changes people’s behavior is new information. They will go on doing what they’re doing right now, until they get new information.”
New information is what convinces organizations and people to change. Good leaders make change happen by sharing the information that mobilizes people in new directions.
But some people will resist even the most powerful new information, even when current strategies aren’t working.
In a brilliant talk years ago, corporate change consultant Morrie Shechtman (fifthwaveleadership.com) provided answers.
He said people and organizations run on values, and when those values differ, it blocks progress. Not values like honesty, loyalty, and integrity, but rather values about change, responsibility, and impact vs. reward.
Everyone’s values on these three parameters lie along a spectrum, he said. If you’re at one end of the spectrum and the organization’s values are at the other end, it won’t be a happy fit.
Most people don’t like change, which brings uncertainty and risk.
But Shechtman said people respond differently to it. People at one end of the spectrum define it as bad and avoid it. When forced to change, they keep it as small as possible to get by.
Many businesses are the same. Force to change, they do it in very small increments. It’s happening every day in newspaper companies.
Note: Not deciding to change is a decision, and in a declining business, it’s deadly.
At the other end of the change spectrum, people respond differently. When change becomes the smart thing to do, they make the most far-reaching change possible.
Disrupted businesses and their leaders must view change that way. Anything less is a decision to keep riding the business down.
Our companies need people who think that way. People who resist, minimize or postpone change will slow or even sabotage progress.
At one end of the responsibility spectrum, people see themselves as victims of circumstances beyond their control.
At the other end, people believe it’s up to them to find a way to succeed, no matter what happens. They take responsibility for turning circumstances into opportunities.
In businesses disrupted from outside—like traditional media—the victim mentality is deadly. Throughout the organization, we need fighters determined to make success out of any circumstance.
Impact versus reward
At one end of this spectrum, people believe they must choose impact or reward. At the other end, people believe they can and should have both.
Many jobs don’t work that way. For example, Shechtman said people take teaching jobs to have impact on young people, consciously accepting low pay.
In our business, people become reporters or editors to have an impact, resigning themselves to low pay. But people in advertising take pride in having positive impacts on their customers and making good money.
Newspapers constantly lose their best people, because the whole industry tends to underpay even its high performers. They max out what we offer, then move on to better-paying industries.
If you’re a leader in a disrupted business, think about where your own values fall:
Are you avoiding change or making the most of it?
Are you taking full responsibility to make the best of what’s happening?
Are you expecting to achieve both impact and reward?
What about your people? Are their values where they need to be?
If not, your organization’s response to the digital revolution is suffering. Just think how wonderful it would be to work with people who take full and enthusiastic responsibility for making successful change happen.
Remember—not making a decision to change is a decision.
Steve Gray is director of strategy and innovation at Morris Communications, working with Morris Publishing Group’s 11 daily newspapers.