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Successful buy-in methods for change

Have you ever wondered how many choices we make in a day changing our outcome? The fact is we make ~35,000 decisions according to PBS study. We make about 226 choices on food alone in one day. It’s an insane number, don’t you agree? If you are making choices, you are changing your status quo unless your choice is to do nothing. But you cannot be selecting to do nothing all the time. We are creatures of change, always evolving and making choices that impact everything we do. So, why is the choice to resist change when presented to us at work? Why do we believe doing the same old thing is the right way to go?

These are questions that everyone should ask and answer for themselves because the responses would vary depending on how flexible you as a person accept change. From my end, I believe that when we make unconscious choices that we do not even consider as choices, but a way of life. Whether I go pick up the mail now, later, or tomorrow is something I consider an unconscious choice because its impact on my routine is minimal. It's a choice which will change my routine, but the change is so slight, I won't feel it has a significant impact.

The conscious choices on the other hand, are the ones that stand out. For example, deciding to buy a new home or rent, apply for a new job, or stay in the current one, decide to get married or live together. These are all considered life-changing events in our lives and usually deemed more of a stress instead of a choice. We would never compare these decisions with deciding when to pick up the mail.

When it comes to the workplace, changes usually come in the form of a new initiative, project, or venture. There are always those excited for the change while others dread it. Next time you find yourself in a situation where you get to witness both pessimism and optimism in the same room, go inquire about their reaction. I’ve found when I did this in the past, pessimism came from people that were unsure / afraid of the future, jaded from past changes, or simply uninterested in doing more work. The optimists were those who were tired of the status quo, problem-solvers, visionaries seeing what the change could bring, or team-players that enjoy new endeavors. In short, I call the pessimists squares because they live on the sidelines while I refer to the optimists as being circles, continuously improving themselves, and changing for the better. Even when the change is not the best, an optimist will work to make it better instead of smacking it down.

Pessimists include anyone who starts with the phrase, “I have to do it because…” because this does not necessarily mean they accepted the change. They may have adopted the change because they believe they have no choice in the matter, but they are still resisting the change. Forcing the adoption is not the way to go. The first chance these people get to stop following this new way of working, they will take it.

Let’s be honest, diversity is beautiful, and conflict is needed for people to iron out the change. So, we need to have both pessimists and optimists at work. Getting through this grey area and into the buy-in state so the change becomes adoption is challenging work. In the past, when facilitating these discussions and leading changes at the workplace, I found three main reasons when buy-in to the change got easy and resistance dissipated. They were:

  1. If the idea came from them or was a shared idea within a group. It was easier to get them to change if they came up with the solution to fix the problem.

  2. If the change answers the question, “what’s in it for me?” Anyone who has led a change in a company will tell you that the buy-in comes easy if the change is for them and not because the top heads asked for it.

  3. If the person uses a strong messaging to communicate the change; also known as stating their “why.” Marketing may not be your strength, but if you know how to sell your idea by projecting your beliefs to others, then you will get them to follow you in the change.

Since change is part of who we are, find your balance between resistance and flexibility to achieve less stress at your workplace. Next time you need to have your co-workers change for the better, try using one of these successful buy-in methods and let us know how it goes.

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