Change Them Please

Are you tearing out your managerial hair over employees who just won’t change – especially the ones who are clearly smart, skilled, and deeply committed to your company and your plans for improvement? Before you throw up your hands in frustration, listen to recent psychological research:

Your valued employees aren’t purposefully subversive or resistant. Instead, they may be unwittingly caught in a competing commitment —a subconscious, hidden goal that conflicts with their stated commitments. For example: A project leader dragging their feet has an unrecognized competing commitment to avoid tougher assignments that may come their way if they deliver too successfully on the current project. ‘Bob, you did so great on the last project, I’d like you to start/take over Project X.’ Bob hears, ‘blah-blah, hooray good job, let me move the goal post for you, because I have no faith in Steve, cuz you know Steve sucks.’

Competing commitments make people personally immune to change. Worse, they can undermine your best employees’, and your company’s, success. If the thought of tackling these  hidden commitments strikes you as a psychological shit pile, you’re not alone. However, you can help employees uncover and move beyond their competing commitments without having to “put them on the shelf.” Lead them!

When you lead them, you’ll be challenging your employees’ deepest psychological foundations and questioning their longest-held beliefs. 

Why bother, you ask? Consider acknowledging and rewarding them: You help talented employees become much more effective and make far more significant contributions to your company.

They aren’t output, they’re people and they’re starved for you to lead them.

Culture changes fail becuase people fail to lead. This reason is the impetus of why we transfer our Elegant Leader knowledge during all Culture Influencing projects – they’re dependent on one another – just as you’re dependent on your people. And, you discover what’s really going on when people who seem genuinely committed to change dig in their heels. Use these steps to break through an employee’s immunity to change:

Assess the Competing Commitment.

Take 2, 3, 8 however many hours is required to explore these questions with your team:
“What would you like to see changed at work, so you could be more effective and the work more satisfying?”

Responses are usually complaints – a manager grumbles, “My subordinates keep me out of the loop.”

What commitment does your complaint imply? Complaints indicate what people care about most – a manager may believe they are open, candid communicators.

What are you doing, or not doing, to keep your commitment from being more fully realized? They may admit, “When people bring me bad news, I tend to shoot the messenger.” Imagine doing the opposite of the undermining behavior. What discomfort, worry or fear exists now? The manager may imagine listening calmly and openly to the bad news and conclude they’re afraid they’ll hear about a problem they can’t fix. Many people’s greatest fear is the fear of being found out or perceived as incapable which could result in job loss.

By engaging in this undermining behavior, what worrisome outcome are you committed to preventing? The answer is the competing commitment. It’s what causes them to dig in their heels against change. You likely hear them conceed, “I’m committed to not learning about problems I can’t fix.”

Smoke Out The Elephant in the Room –  The Big Assumption

This is the worldview that colors everything we see and that generates our competing commitment. People often form big assumptions early in life and then seldom, if ever, examine them. They’re woven into the very fabric of our lives. But only by bringing them into the light can people finally challenge their deepest beliefs and recognize why they’re engaging in seemingly contradictory behavior. To identify the big assumption, guide an employee through this exercise:

Create a sentence stem that inverts the competing commitment, then “fill in the blank.” Let’s say one of your managers turned his competing commitment to not hearing about problems he couldn’t fix into this big assumption: “I assume that if I did hear about problems I can’t fix, people would discover I’m not qualified to do the job.”

Test and Consider replacing – The Big Assumption 

By analyzing the circumstances leading up to and reinforcing their big assumptions, employees empower themselves to test those assumptions. They can now carefully and safely experiment with behaving differently than they usually do. After running several such tests, employees may feel ready to reevaluate the big assumption itself—and possibly even replace it with a new worldview that more accurately reflects their abilities. At the very least, they’ll eventually find more effective ways to support their competing committments without sabotaging other commitments. They achieve ever-greater accomplishments—and your organization benefits by finally gaining greater access to their talents.

Are you frustrated with the slow movement of your team or organization?

If you don’t change anything, what do you think will happen?

What can you do and what will you do to mobilize and engage your people?

Whatever your answer is, choose today to be someone committed to leading your team, a direction for your life that makes a difference in the lives of others. If you’re struggling a bit with how to do it all and much of the work seems overwhelming, then finding a partner willing to be your stake-in-the-ground may be what’s missing. I always offer a phone conversation or if you prefer an email dialog to help you uncover what to do to influence and impact your team with no obligation, no strings attached. It’s up to you to decide if having us come alongside you in this journey makes sense. For more information, go here and get the 7 Steps absolutely free. #ElegantLeader2020 #ManUp #GoDeeper

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