Returning to the Office is a blessing for some of us. Others dread it and wish they didn’t have to go. Most people are somewhere in the middle. It feels impossible to get everyone on the same page, which makes it tough to lead the team. Everyone seems to be on a different schedule and reacts differently than their teammates. If only there was a way to make sense of it.
There is. Kind of.
The formula for leading change
In discussing change with our clients, we often use a “formula” to help them make sense of the various reactions and objections. If you know the variables, it is relatively easier (with humans nothing is easy) to address their concerns and help them accept, adopt and even embrace the change.
The formula looks imposing, but is actually quite easy to understand : D∗V∗Fs > Cp.
There. Isn’t that easier?
Let’s make sense of that. Basically this says that if the three variables, D,V, Fs (Dissatisfaction, Vision, First Steps) are greater than the perceived Cost of making the change, you’re going to have some work to do. Here’s a closer look:
- Dissatisfaction is how unhappy people are with the current circumstances. If they don’t know there’s a problem, or don’t care, or it seems like the change will be more work, hassle or expense than it’s worth, you’ll meet with resistance. The more physical, psychological or economic pain they experience, the more willing to change. Few of us like buying a car. We resist as long as we can until the thing either doesn’t move at all, or constant repairs make it prohibitively expensive to keep the old one. The dissatisfaction eventually overcomes our resistance.
- Vision refers to people’s ability to clearly see what the change will look like. Do they know exactly what the new software will do and how it will make their life easier, or are they asked to change without really being sure the change will make their job easier? If we can’t see what life after the change will look like (with reasonable certainty) many people will resist, erring on the side of the known instead of the unknown.
- First steps must be understood and acceptable in order to being moving through a change. Often the size and scope of the change seems so intimidating that people are frozen in place. Where do they start? How do we begin to tackle something so scary? You tackle a change the same way you eat an elephant—one bite at a time. Clearly defining the first steps, along with ways to measure and build on success, often helps eliminate paralyzing fear. People will often take those first, tentative steps. If they go well, they’ll take the next few (hopefully more willingly.) Eventually they find themselves actively changing and not feeling so much fear.
- Perceived Cost of the Change Ultimately, all change comes with a price. The new software might require new training. It might slow your work down for a while until you get comfortable with the new tool or the new way we do things. You might still be carrying a grudge because you didn’t want to change in the first place so you are grumpy and barely compliant (which takes more energy than the change sometimes).
Stop speculating and talk to people
It is always dangerous to guess at why people do something. Bob might not be really good at technology and barely knows how to use the existing tools, which is why he’s resistant. Alice, on the other hand, is an expert on the existing platform and doesn’t know if she’ll be as good, smart or fast on the new one After all, if it isn’t broke why fix it? You don’t know for sure unless you engage in conversation with people and uncover which of the factors is getting in the way of accepting the change.
When it comes to returning to the office, there are as many concerns, questions and objections as there are people on your team. Understanding which parts of the formula require attention may make it less painful to lead people through the change.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager
Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.
Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership. Wayne and Kevin’s follow-up book, The Long-Distance Teammate, offers a roadmap for success not just for leaders, but for everyone making the transition to working remotely.
The latest book from Wayne and Kevin shows leaders how to design a team culture that has a one-team mindset and gets great results under hybrid-work conditions. You can order The Long-Distance Team: Designing Your Team for Everyone’s Success now.