How to tell a change story
One of the most critical stories to be able to tell is a change story. It is the most common story I work with leaders on and one of the most challenging, as leaders and organisations are often resistant to change.
I am reminded of a leader I worked with who was the global head of a large enterprise business. Their organisation was going through a huge transition from selling hardware to software services in the cloud, and the change was being met with great resistance.
John: “They just don’t get it. The team doesn’t want to change. If we don’t shift our mindset we are not going to make it.”
Mark: “You’ve been in this industry for a long time, haven’t you?”
John: “Nearly 40 years.”
Mark: “I’m guessing you have seen your fair share of change.”
John: “A lot. I remember in the 80’s when fax machines came in. I could get orders sent digitally to the office. It was incredible.”
Mark: “Now you probably have people here who don’t even know what a fax is.”
John: “Probably. I remember when mobile phones came in. They were a game changer. I had the yellow Nokia 8810. I was the man!”
Mark: “So it sounds like change isn’t something new.”
John: “No it’s actually very normal. Especially in our business”
While John understood the need for change, he was articulating it in a way that created uncertainty for his people. On top of that, they were still making most of their money from selling hardware, so getting his people to embrace the change to cloud services was not going to be easy.
When communicating change stories there are 5 critical steps to get your audience engaged:
- Show that change is normal
When people fear change it is usually because it forces them to sit in uncertainty. By reminding people of change that they have already experienced and survived, you demonstrate that change is nothing that they need to fear.
- Create a context for the change
Often people within an organisation only have an understanding of the area they work in, so they struggle to understand why change is needed. It is therefore critical to create a context for the change that takes them beyond their space. In this way you can demonstrate how their contribution fits into the bigger picture.
- Articulate the opportunity in the change
Once people understand the need for change, it is then critical to create a compelling story of what the future could be. A vision of what is possible. By doing this you get people to focus on the benefits of change and also the potential cost of not embracing the change.
- Make your team own the change
Next it is important to show people that they each have a critical part to play in creating that future. Demonstrate how each role within the business is essential to making that future a reality. In this way, you can demonstrate the difference each person makes in delivering the change and how their contribution matters.
- Tell them how it will feel when it’s done
Once your people own their role in the change, get them to focus on what it will be like when the change is delivered. Create a vision of what it will look and feel like when the goal is achieved. By doing this you create an emotional connection to achieving the goal.
By following these steps and sharing his experience, John was able to demonstrate to his team that change wasn’t something to be feared and resisted. It was in fact normal, and all of his people had experienced it before. He was able to get his team to buy into his vision and create excitement around the opportunities this change presented.
In this way, John was able to engage his team across the globe and get them all moving in the same direction. He also got props for his old school banana phone and felt like the man again!