I once heard about a key sponsor of digital transformation at a national brand who insisted on maintaining a paper diary as the only way to book meetings with them.
Good luck with that change programme.
Be a role* model
Recent research by Keller and Schaninger into successful change strategies highlighted role-modelling by leaders as a key factor (you can read more in our latest research report here). It confirms a universal truth: that we’re more influenced by what other people do than what they say. This may seem a self-destructive reveal from someone who coaches leaders in the power of story, but stay with me.
Role-modelling, or demonstrating the behaviours and attitudes we want to see in other people, comes in different forms:
- unlike our friend in the example above, we can show our belief and enthusiasm for the change we’re leading by changing our own ways of working accordingly. Leading a move to a flexible working environment? Start working more flexibly. Driving a cost-cutting push? Take a pay cut.
- we can be even more influential by role-modelling the ability to change. This is what came out in Keller and Schaninger’s research. Successful change involves showing your organisation that change is good and how to do it.
Thawing the ‘permafrost’
And that means tackling the ‘frozen’ or ‘sticky’ (depending on the research you read) layer of middle management in your organisation. Here are three ways to tackle the resistance that so many organisations experience among people who feel they need to hang on to the status quo as a survival mechanism:
- Use your own change stories to make what you are leading people towards very relevant to them. Don’t talk past them or over them; involve them.
- Train this group to shape and tell stories around change to their own people. Giving managers information to cascade is a cop-out and it will lose its effectiveness as it dribbles down the organisation. Teach them to tell stories, and the flow of information will actually gain power as it moves through the layers.
- Listen to the stories of your management and encourage them to listen to the stories of their own people. It’s how we humans really understand what the people around us are thinking and feeling. If everyone acts on that better understanding, it creates a powerful feedback loop that will generate unstoppable momentum.
Story is an exceptional change tool. Master it!
(*And yes, kids, the picture above is a roll of film: how we used to do photos in the old days.)
Write the Talk is a specialist story agency. We partner with bold organisations around the world to make leaders better leaders, make transformation and strategy work, and unite organisations behind a common purpose. How? By creating compelling, long-running narratives and equipping leaders and their people with the story skills to sustain them.