Guide Your Employees to Embrace Change by Knowing “Why it Matters”
Written By Anna Sullins
“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” – H.P. Lovecraft, American author
Change can be frightening, and for good reason. Too many businesses don’t survive the changes thrust upon them. Many of us look forward to changes, frequently talking to each other about how things should be different, but when change begins, we’re often uncomfortable and unsure. Employees facing uncertainty can become fearful of failure, rejection, success, criticism, and fearful about the unknown.
Start with “why”
As a leader, how do we manage change to bring our employees on board and reduce fear and uncertainty? Perhaps the most important thing we can do to assure that change is successful is to start with why. The “why” is your sure feeling; it’s the way to make things better, to impact a positive change that can improve the world.
Knowing why is critically important to us all; it appears to be part of our DNA. Consider the actions of many two-year old children; it’s a developmental stage where they all ask why. Why is the sky blue? Why do I have to go to sleep? Why? Why? Why? While all those questions can be overwhelming, those children are only vocalizing what human beings want to know all the time, and that’s “why”. Why is our business changing? Why does it matter that we do things differently now?
Biltmore’s “why”; a case study
It seems as if the pace of change is accelerating today, and Biltmore is no exception. Biltmore approaches change from both an organizational perspective and a personal perspective. A case in point…
Recently Biltmore opened its newest, largest event venue, the Amherst Conference Center. This handsome, new building was created only after careful planning and a thorough assessment of what this change might mean for other event venues on the estate.
In the process of planning, Biltmore’s leaders were very clear about their organizational why—it was to help preserve Biltmore as a privately owned profitable working estate. Having a venue that could host up to 800 guests would bring in more revenue and people who would likely visit the estate again. But many employees had concerns—what if this new space took business away from other venues on the estate? What if the new venue didn’t perform as expected? These questions led to our staff to form a more personal why for their own teams.
The events management and staff were most effected by the new venue. After discussions and some thought, they created their own personal why. They knew they were responding to guest requests for a larger space and now they could accommodate those requests. They also knew that Amherst would continue to maintain the Biltmore legacy, from its handsome exterior that echoes the style of original buildings on the estate to the Gracious Hospitality they provide as standard operating procedure.
Amherst is operating profitably and smoothly now with more and more bookings as time goes on, meeting expectations. But that would not have been possible had management and employees not understood and embraced the why.
Explain the why
Phillip G. Clampitt, a consultant and communications professor at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay conducted a study of some 300 managers and employees at more than 100 US employers. That study concluded that employees of companies that explained business decisions more fully were twice as likely to support those decisions.
Clampitt says that explaining new initiatives to workers can help gain their support. When change is imminent, he recommends you tell employees these things about the change:
- How the decision was made
- The reasons behind it
- What alternatives were rejected
- How the decision fits into the organization’s mission and vision
- What changes it will mean for the company
- How it affects employees
Smooth the transition
Prioritizing such informational meetings and encouraging employees to find their own reasons why will help assure much smoother transitions. Understanding why is one of many topics we offer to businesses interested in learning about timely and important business ideas.
Learn more about how our workshops can help elevate your leadership direction and help your employees embrace changes on the horizon in your company.