Up-sell change as a leader

You know things have to change; “business as usual” is a guarantee to fail. You keep saying to yourself: “It’s insanity to keep doing the same thing and expect different results.” If you are managing from the middle, at the senior or middle management level, the ability to upsell change is a necessary skill to get what you want.

When change stalls, start upselling

Your boss supports you, but is fairly lukewarm about resources and time commitments. Everyone involved seems to agree but then claim they are too busy. Activity traps, inertia, disinterest, ambivalence, fear … people fabricate (consciously or unconsciously) lots of reasons to avoid making change. A needed change stalls before you even get started. Unless you’re willing to wait for a crisis (that usually means someone gets fired), start thinking about “upselling” change.

Broken people processes

When people processes — effective internal communications, seamless teamwork, shared power and decision-making, streamlined knowledge sharing — are broken, any great business strategy is doomed. Yet, fixing people processes continues to be widely ignored by leaders. Why? Leaders have to tread into their non-comfort zones to fix these problems and often feel helpless to generate creative and productive solutions.

People processes can be difficult to analyze and require a different set of skills to effectively address. Leaders often stumble over how to get started, not sure what is broken and what needs to be fixed. So, with the belief that no action is the best course, things fester, get worse, may go away, but most likely problems just get exacerbated.

Getting away with it, really?

At best, you may “get away with” ignoring real problems this time. But in the long run, you and the organization pay an enormous price in employee burnout, management frustration, quality of life, and the lost opportunity to create a successful model for future changes. Chances are, when the next initiative comes around, you’ll repeat the same unproductive, dysfunctional, energy-zapping patterns.

People side of the equation

So what’s a leader or manager to do? To borrow from our sales colleagues, you should “up-sell change.” Up-selling change means to persuade your boss, employees, internal clients to invest in a more effective solution. A solution that factors in the people side of the equation. Plant the idea that people issues can be confronted and changed in as a strategic manner as you would with a new technology system or making an acquisition. Just like any business problem, you start by making the business case for change.

Step #1

Conduct a readiness assessment (how ready are people to change?); start your change strategy where the people are, not where you think they should be; outline success metrics (how will you know if the change is successful?); identify motivation levers (WIIFM – the “what’s in it for me?” especially for the key players); check your expectations (making change is an iterative process, baby steps first). Remember while you are “up-selling change” to start at the point of least resistance — import new knowledge, share ideas first.

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