If you lead others, you are in the change business. When you are in the change business, you will eventually have to deal with resistance to your ideas, the direction you want to go, the new behaviors you are expecting, and more. Dealing with resistance is a normal part of leadership.
When you attempt to create change that involves other people, they will inevitably ask the question: “What’s in it for me?” Until they get a satisfactory answer to that question, the odds that they will stay locked in resistance are pretty high.
In order to transform resistance into acceptance, give people an answer to this question as soon as possible. When you give the answer, deliver it in a way that people see the personal, positive benefits of the change from their perspective.
If you have been reading leadership development resources for any time at all, this concept is probably not new to you. While the idea is not necessarily new, many new leaders fail in their efforts to answer the question effectively for a very simple reason – they fall prey to what behavioral analysts call “perception error.”
Perception error is the tendency most people have of misreading other people’s perspectives and motivations by assuming that other people do things or are motivated by the same things that motivate the leader. For example, I am very factual and data driven. If I am not very careful, I tend to give people far more information than they care about. When I do that, I give them what’s important to me rather than what’s important to them – I fall victim to my own perception error.
The simple solution to this challenge is to match your word choice, tone, pace, level of detail, and energy level to the person receiving the message. When you do this well, you improve the odds that they hear “what’s in it for them” in your message rather than “what’s in it for you.”
Here are some tips to help you do this more effectively:
- Match your vocal pace to theirs. If they tend to speak quickly, then speak quickly. If they speak more slowly, then slow down.
- Use words the they would use. For example…
If they talk about how they feel about the change. Then talk about feelings and emotions. Make sure you smile and use more stories than facts to relay your vision of the post change situation.
If they talk about what they think about the change, then talk about thoughts and facts more than about feelings. Stay focused on projected results, data, and value created by the change.
In any case, do the best you can to make the communication clearly state how the change will affect them rather than how it will impact the organization.
Your Now Step: Think about a change you hope to create within your team. Now, think about a person that you need to communicate with about this change. Do they speak quickly or more methodically? Do they focus on results and facts or emotions and relationships? Practice tailoring your delivery to match them.