Want real commitment to change? Tune to WII-FM

I often get asked “How can I get my staff to commit to this change?” and I laugh internally at the implication in the words. It’s human nature to want others to give first, but it’s been my experience that leaders need to be prepared to give in order to get.

One way of ‘giving’ is to show our commitment first and be subject to the same standards. David Maister’s blog describes a great example of this type of commitment from the President of a global advertising firm, who asked staff to evaluate him as a leader and then promised to resign if he did not improve his rating as a leader.

Another way of ‘giving’ is to describe how the change might benefit them personally, not just benefit the organisation.

So when you next want a commitment from your people, think first about tuning in to the universal station, WII-FM (What’s In It For Me): Describe what you are prepared to offer from your end, or what benefit you believe the change will provide to them as individuals, before you ask for their commitment. Read an example below.

Last year I was approached by an organisation to develop and run performance management training for their managers and staff, as part of an initiative to build a performance culture. At the same time there were a number of redundancies happening. In one workshop session, when I introduced the need for staff to commit to the new process, one of them stood up and said, “Why should I? I might be out of a job in three months, so why would I want to go out of my way to do this?”

All I could say was “Fair question. I can’t offer you any commitment that embracing this process will help keep your job. I can offer a view that if you do embrace the process you may be looked upon more favourably if there are choices to be made. I can also offer the view that the business world is moving more and more to performance based work agreements, so even if you are made redundant, knowing how to negotiate a performance agreement is a skill that will be useful in future roles.”

The employee still wasn’t happy, but I think he understood the logic of my answer.

So, for leaders introducing change, the key is to identify possible benefits that the change will ‘give’ to employees, even if we cannot commit that making the change will secure their continuing employment.

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