Change Readiness Skills
In their popular guide to corporate change, professional change coach Robert Kriegel and clinical psychologist David Brandt (1998), identify seven traits of change readiness:
- Tolerance for Ambiguity (Acceptance of the Unknown)
You can assess your aptitude for these traits by taking the Change Readiness Assessment, which is highlighted in the Discussion and Activities section of this chapter. Meanwhile, each of these traits and how they influence one’s approach to change is described below.
Resourcefulness: Resourceful people know where to find answers and support during change. They are creative problem solvers and look for new ways to use available resources. People who are not resourceful during change may resist and try to do things the old way. They get stuck and frustrated. Those who are highly resourceful might over-investigate and involve others, overlooking the simple solution or plan of action.
Optimism: Optimistic people will see change as an opportunity and believe things will turn out alright. They may be more positive and optimistic about change, even if the process is difficult and the benefits of change are not immediately realized. Those who are pessimist about change will see only potential problems associated with change. Those who are overly optimistic, however, may overlook problems and need to engage in more critical evaluation of change.
Confidence: Confidence (or self-confidence in particular) is the belief one will be able to handle the changing situation. A confident person does not have to be positive about a change. They may not like a change, even think it ill-advised, but they know they will be able to handle the problems or what is required from them. Those who are too confident, however, may be seen as cocky, and not receive feedback well. Those who are not confident may require more social support and assistance.
Adventurousness: Those who are adventurous are happy to take risks. Since every change requires some amount of risk, accepting results may not be ideal, adventurous people are needed to initiate and execute change. Overly adventurous individuals may be reckless but those not willing to take any risks will be complacent, which can create a barrier to much-needed organizational change.
Adaptability: Adaptable individuals are flexible and resilient. They are flexible in their goals and plans, and recover from failure or mistakes quickly. If their plans do not work out, they are comfortable trying something else. Change requires individuals to adapt to new situations but also not to give up if something is difficult.
Tolerance for Ambiguity (Acceptance of the Unknown): If adaptability is being able to meet the demands of a changing situation, then tolerance for ambiguity is the level of comfort one has knowing nothing is certain. All aspects of life are subject to change so some amount of tolerance for ambiguity is needed to feel comfortable, otherwise, change could be terrifying. Those who have too much tolerance for ambiguity, however, may have a hard time making decisions, because they see everything in flux.
Passion / Drive: Passion and drive are the maximizer traits–those with passion and drive will stick with the difficult tasks associated with change. They will be determined and enthusiastic. Too much passion and drive, however, can lead to obsession or burnout as a person’s work consumes them and their sense of self.
Organizations do not need all employees to optimally possess each of these traits. They need self-aware individuals who can support each other. Being able to identify the traits you and your coworkers possess and do not possess, will help you ask for and offer help during change.
Overcoming Resistance to Change
You feel that a change is needed. You have a great idea. But people around you do not seem convinced. They are resisting your great idea. How do you make change happen?
- Listen to naysayers. You may think that your idea is great, but listening to those who resist may give you valuable ideas about why it may not work and how to design it more effectively.
- Is your change revolutionary? If you are trying to change dramatically the way things are done, you will find that resistance is greater. If your proposal involves incrementally making things better, you may have better luck.
- Involve those around you in planning the change. Instead of providing the solutions, make them part of the solution. If they admit that there is a problem and participate in planning a way out, you would have to do less convincing when it is time to implement the change.
- Assess your credibility. When trying to persuade people to change their ways, it helps if you have a history of suggesting implementable changes. Otherwise, you may be ignored or met with suspicion. This means you need to establish trust and a history of keeping promises over time before you propose a major change.
- Present data to your audience. Be prepared to defend the technical aspects of your ideas and provide evidence that your proposal is likely to work.
- Appeal to your audience’s ideals. Frame your proposal around the big picture. Are you going to create happier clients? Is this going to lead to a better reputation for the company? Identify the long-term goals you are hoping to accomplish that people would be proud to be a part of.
- Understand the reasons for resistance. Is your audience resisting because they fear change? Does the change you propose mean more work for them? Does it affect them in a negative way? Understanding the consequences of your proposal for the parties involved may help you tailor your pitch to your audience (McGoon, 1995; Michelman, 2007; Stanley, 2002).