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I wish I'd known...others wouldn't be as invested in the change

I wish I knew with path and hills

If you are leading a change, you are likely pretty invested in seeing it through and being successful. But what about all the other people you need on board to make the change successful – are they as invested as you? 

Transitioning through change is like running a marathon. Those that are leading the change finish the marathon (buy into and commit to the change) long before those who are just learning about the change. It’s important for leaders to remember what it was like to start the race – tying shoes, warming up, the mass of people crossing the starting line before being able to find your own space to run. Leaders need to go back and bring people along the racecourse with them, engage them in conversation, find out how they are doing and what they are feeling. Where a cramp or dehydration can negatively impact your desired race results, lack of support can negatively impact the desired benefits of organizational change.

When some have already run the races, others are still doing up their laces.

So, how do you get people more invested in the change? The following conversations from my book - Talking Change: Must-Have Conversations for Successful Leaders - will help you. Get the book to access all the questions and background for these and many more conversations to lead change. 

1.  The Why Conversation – this conversation is often used by change initiators to determine why they need to make a change now. You can also use this conversation as a communication tool. Answer the following questions in group meetings or one-on-one to explain the compelling reason for the changes.

  • Why are we changing now?
  • Why will this change be different than past changes?
  • What are the consequences of not changing?
  • What are the benefits of the change?

2. The Stop, Start, Continue Conversation – often people are not invested in change because they don’t have time, capacity, energy, or resources to make a change. Engaging in this conversation will help create capacity to implement the change successfully. Also, giving people the opportunity to provide input into the change and how to make it successful builds their buy-in and commitment. The key with this conversation is to gather ideas from your teams and then actually act on them! Have your teams answer the following questions:

  • What will we stop doing in our team (e.g. activities, communications, meetings, processes, tools, etc.) to create time and capacity to focus on implementing the change?
  • What will we continuing doing?
  • What will we start doing to support the successful implementation of the change?

3. The Are You on Board? Conversation – you may find yourself in a situation where someone is actively resisting the change and the impact of their actions is negatively affecting the rest of the team. If this is the case, it’s time to have this conversation. It’s important to prepare for this conversation by:

  • Gathering specific examples about their negative behaviour and the impact of it
  • Considering their role on the team and what is at stake if they stay (and keep the same attitude) or they leave the organization
  • Knowing what your options are if this person continues to be disruptive and not get on board with the change.

Once you’ve prepared, ask the following questions and based on responses determine next steps.

  • Where do you agree or disagree with the reasons for the change?
  • Are you aware of what you need to do more, better, or differently to work in the new way?
  • What have you done to work in the new way? What support do you need?

Gaining commitment to change – getting others invested – is a marathon, not a sprint. You will have conversations, one more time with feeling, to get people on board. And leading change, like running a marathon, takes endurance. As my colleague Leslie Keen so aptly wrote in her article Is outstanding change leadership more passion than process? (Leslie Keen and Graham Stephenson, 2009): “Leaders need to stay the course, with time and other business priorities as the enemy. Endurance is vital for the survival and development of any worthwhile change effort. Only a team that develops the necessary endurance – supported and encouraged by the leader – will be able to withstand the stress, frustration, uncertainty, and ambiguity which often accompanies major change.”


Are you managing or supporting a change initiative? Take the Leading Change for Project Managers course to build your confidence, skills, and toolbox to plan and manage change with ease. 

Are you leading a team through change – whether you chose the change or not? Bring the AIM Changer program to your organization – it will change the way you lead forever. 

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