Why is Change Such Hard Work?

I am reminded of a great analogy a friend shared with me recently about a football coach who wanted to change his offensive system. He brought his players together, explained the new offense, and told them that they need to be ready for the next game. He then left the team to figure it out by themselves. The team lost the next game terribly. The coach was furious and told his players, in no uncertain terms, that they need to do better. Again, the coach left his team to figure it out alone. Not surprisingly, they lost the next game terribly as well. Finally, the coach realized that his team needed help understanding the what, why and how of the new offence. He began working with his players, both individually and in groups. As a result, although the team lost the next game, it was not as bad. In a few weeks the team began to win games again.

What happened? As the leader of his team, he left it up to his players to “figure it out themselves.” He expected and demanded them to embrace what was transformational change—new formations, players moving to new positions and learning new skills. Not an easy task for any team.

It’s the same in business. In our own experience working with dozens of clients, we have come to expect resistance, because strategic plans often require transformational change—business models, organizational structure, responsibilities, culture, etc. Resistance to change comes in many different forms…I don’t have time; I’ll get to it later; why fix it if it’s not broken; and we’ve always done it this way. Motivating employees to accept new strategic initiatives can be a challenge in any company. Think of it as the “rule of thirds.” When it comes to implementing change, 1/3 of employees will support you, 1/3 will resist you, and 1/3 will wait to see who wins.

Like the football coach, don’t expect change to just happen, because it won’t. Change requires patience, persistence, and hard work at all levels of the organization. Consider these four steps to start the process.

  1. Use a systematic approach – use and manage a proven change process, and follow through with persistence and patience. 
  2. Visualize the benefits – explain to employees the value of the proposed changes, and provide them with a visual of what success looks like. 
  3. Be a great coach – a good coach will win games. A great coach will take ordinary players (employees) and help them perform beyond their expectations. 
  4. Invest the time – Take time to teach, encourage and support individuals and teams. The payback will mean big wins for your business.

A final tip…when effecting change, don’t expect positive results right away. Rather, plan for things to get worse before they get better. Visualize a J-Curve where performance falls at the outset and eventually will rise to a point much higher than the starting point. As performance improvements, everyone will find it easier to accept change.

We would like to hear about your experiences. Give us a call.


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