by Tony Vidler
In times of great change, as we are currently facing, there is a prevailing thought amongst most business owners or managers that they are responsible for making the necessary internal changes to deal with all those external changes. Apart from the risk to the sanity and health of anyone running a practice in trying to take charge of and do everything, there is the additional issue of that attitude working against the very result that you are seeking.
When one person, such as the owner or practice manager, attempts to be the answer to all things and to the “change agent” inside the firm then it is rapidly perceived by stakeholders as being something for which that person created. The person trying to take charge and come up with the internal solutions to the external problems often becomes unfairly perceived as being the actual problem. The result is resistance to change.
“Change” is rarely an issue for staff in reality. People are perfectly comfortable with change…it is the normal environment for us all. What people fear and resist is the unknown. It is the “unknown” which has to be addressed in order to successfully create change, especially change with a sense of urgency.
To successfully implement a lot of change in a relatively short period of time (for example; over 1-2 years) there is an internal “sales” process that one should go through in order to obtain buy-in from the team,and also to ensure that they understand what the catalysts are. They need to know that it is not someone’s ego trip, but a genuine need for the business as a whole to go through a process of change for the good of everyone involved in the business.
To sell the process of change inside a practice the 4 big steps of the process are:
Establish the compelling case for change. Explain what is causing the need for it, and what it is likely to involve. Don’t sugar-coat it…be straight up.
Create clear responsibility areas. Leadership in this respect is not the same as being responsible for figuring everything out,or taking responsibility for each facet of change within the business. Significant change across a practice can only occur through delegation and accountability of all of those within the business.
Communicate often. Remind people of why you are going through the process of change regularly, and report even more regularly on the little “wins” of progress. You have to keep the awareness level high, and keep the momentum going.
Trust your people. To get practice-wide buy-in and commitment requires that you give them responsibility and accountability…but then trust them enough to get out of their way. Empower your people to handle it and it becomes their project – and let them know that you trust them to handle their part of the change process. Give them ownership of it.
Selling the need for change is critical to have change embraced by your team, and then it is all about following the process to maintain the focus and buy-in – and to get the results you were looking for.
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