We need to drive change so they will give better results. Through this change we’re going to create synergies and get rid of the dead wood. Today I heard a new one: We need to force them to do the training for their own good … to aid in adoption.

When you read these types of statements what images do they conjure up for you? In all three cases it makes me think of installing a new program version on a computer. For computers that’s acceptable as they don’t have feelings, emotions or needs. For us humans it’s not so simple. A poor choice of words can have people heading for the hills or simply bracing themselves to ride out this storm.

While at Agile 2013 Esther Derby talked about the language of change. We need to choose our words carefully. It’s no longer good enough for management to tell the front line workers how to do their jobs better (not sure it ever was). Said another way succeeding in today’s world isn’t about ‘fixing them’ (see my post on confronting reality for more on this topic).  Humans are complex creatures and even subtle wording differences creates resistance to change (rather than helping move change along).

Rather than forcing them to do training for their own good, wouldn’t it be a much richer learning experience if they WANT to do the training? Driving change conjures up images of a cattle drive (moo!). Wouldn’t it be better to work with them to move towards a better future? And finally rather than getting rid of the dead wood, perhaps ensuring you help everyone find the right thing for them is less threatening. Hopefully for most people that’s on your team. However, even if that means helping the person reposition themselves outside your group or organization hopefully you’d help them.

The next time you’re looking to create positive change think about why you’re changing. If you want to work with a bunch of smart people who know their jobs better than you … pick words to inspire them and I’m sure you’ll be amazed at the outcomes. If your motives behind change is to ‘fix them’ you may want to try “You will be assimilated … resistance is futile”.

Which do you think will give better and sustainable results? Driving herds to get them to do things the new way? Or inspiring them so they help you build a better future?

Remember … you  can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink!

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