Tough empathy in change management
Last week I had the privilege of spending a day at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Australia in Sydney. John Cleary from Blue Chip Consulting was running an excellent session on “Applied Corporate Strategy for the Finance Professional”. It was a day jam packed with content and value and all the attendees were hard pressed working through some amazing real world case study-based workshops.
One of the topics John introduced was tough empathy. More specifically, how managers need to address the situation where someone may not be overly happy about a change in their operational activities or environment but it has happened for a good reason and they will need to accept it.
With a broad focus on cost management throughout the day, John gave the example on the installation of a new timesheet or procurement system. Plenty of people will happily embrace the change and adapt to the new way of doings things. But there are always laggards and recalcitrants who continue to fall back on the old ways or even worse, set out to subvert the new system.
John suggests there is a very clear message that needs to be presented to these people.
“We are a professional enterprise and we have implemented this new system for a reason. It is of benefit to the business as a whole. The company requires a return on investment for this project. (In the corporate world that means a payback for the shareholders and in the not-for-profit space that means more money for mission). Every time you avoid or subvert the new processes you diminish the value that the company will receive from this project. You need to find something to like about the new ways of doing things. If you don’t we will have to find somewhere else for you to work where they are happy for you to not follow corporate policies and procedures.”
Change management is exactly that, the management of change. And there is a saying I first heard over 10 years ago from Ken Gliddon of Intertain that goes “if you can’t change the people change the people”. And that’s about the nub of it. When you get to the point where despite the training and tormenting, the coaxing and cajoling, some people just won’t accept and adopt the company strategy and direction, they have to be changed.