A Recipe for Change

We have all heard the phrase “Change is Good.”

But is it?

Change can be good; however, making a change without regard for those affected by it, is a recipe for trouble. When a leader tells employees about a change instead of involving them in the change, a team’s work quality, morale, and motivation suffers, and resentment and anxiety may take over. Some workers may even try to undermine a leader’s efforts especially if they feel their manager should have consulted them first, or at least listened to their concerns and perspective before instigating a “new normal.” How can a leader create a healthy recipe for change?

#1 – Share the Recipe’s Ingredients and Directions

Start by discussing your vision with your team; share the reasons you believe the change is necessary, and list the change benefits. Be prepared to answer many “why” questions, and encourage team members to let you know if you are forgetting a critical ingredient(s). If possible, share your motivation for initiating the change, and describe the steps you took to create the recipe. Your team will appreciate the transparency and your openness, and they will be better equipped to accept the change and share your vision if they understand the ‘whys,’ and take an active role in creating their future.

#2 – Invite More Cooks into the Kitchen

Great leaders, even those “at the top of their game,” recognize their expertise limitations, know they have blind spots, and if necessary, consult with others that have a particular, relevant work experience. These leaders understand that even though they are expected to make the big decisions, they are not expected to make them alone. Therefore, whenever possible, wise leaders invite those most affected by a change to join them in the ‘test kitchen.’ When we as leaders fail to do this, we often end up forcing change down or team members’ throats, and just because they “eat” what we serve, it doesn’t mean they like it. They may be “chewing” to keep their jobs, but they won’t be at their productive, creative best – their hearts will be turned off and their heads will be elsewhere.

#3 – Don’t Be Afraid of a Messy Kitchen

When you invite more cooks into the kitchen, the decision making process may become slow and frustrating. Asking others to participate is messy and time consuming; it means you have to listen, slow down, consider other perspectives, be open to alternatives, and ask questions. It means the people you work well with may monopolize the change-making process, and the ones you don’t relate to as well may drag their feet. Strong leaders expect these challenges, work through them, and remain confident that the “messy means” will lead to a great dish in the end.

So how can we make change good?

When we as leaders make a change, we must do more than simply act as a “visionary” or provide great improvement ideas. We must be humble, patient, and whenever possible, directly include our team in the change process, or at the very least, ask our team for suggestions and recommendations. If we do this, our team will emerge from the kitchen with a great new dish that everyone worked on, and we won’t have to force change down everyone’s throats. Sure, a few people may drag their feet because they wanted something different or because they just like being difficult, but the team majority will either try to coax the grumbling minority along, or simply ignore them. If you can achieve this kind of team “buy-in” you won’t have to make impassioned speeches about how this is the best recipe ever and then impel your team to try it. Your team will enjoy the new recipe and gladly serve it to others. This kind of change is good, but it’s messy so bring napkins.

For more insight on change leadership check out Make Change Work by Randy Pettington.

Hope Horner is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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