I get really excited about change. I like change. And most of the people we work with are working with us because they are going through (or want to go through) some kind of change. I met with a client the other day, and we were talking about change. In particular, we were talking about a group of people in their community that are opposed to some of the changes taking place.
Change can be scary. No matter how much we want some of the things that change will bring about, change also results in losing some other things. Some of these things, we don’t mind losing. But there is always some form of loss that happens whenever change takes place. To some, a growing city is great! To others, it means the loss of a quality of life they cherished. To some, a vibrant downtown with tall, new buildings is what they want to see in their city. To others, it means the potential loss of heritage properties built at a ‘human’ scale.
People who are most opposed to change are usually people who don’t want to lose whatever they think they might lose as a result of change. The way I see it, we have two choices about how to engage these people.
We can bulldoze ahead, rallying support to our ‘side’ to simply outnumber, outweigh or overpower those who are resistant to change. This approach is very common, and it usually works. Sort of, anyway. It only ‘sort of’ works because it can create real divisions - an ‘us vs. them’ culture that can divide a community and make the process of change very difficult for everyone.
We also have the choice to listen to them, try to really understand what they’re afraid of losing, and work hard to lessen that loss. Through the process of listening, we can bring everyone under the same tent. No matter how scary the change might be, or how much someone may feel they’re losing, everyone also stands to gain when things change! If we can get everyone focused on what we will gain by changing, rather than what we may lose, we can get everyone on the same ‘side’. Imagine what can happen when everyone is pulling in the same direction!
Is your community or your company in a state of evolution? Is there a distinct group of people who seem resistant to change? What don’t they want to lose, and how can you help them hold onto what they don’t want to lose?