Change is essential to the success of any business, as how else can we expect to grow, improve and remain competitive in our markets? As a major driving force behind success, more of us need to be embracing change to move our business forward. To do this, you need to ensure that your staff support this change and are actively helping you to grow your business, rather than ‘sabotaging’ it. This article, based on an extract from The Accountants Millionaires’ Club Book, explains how to get them on board so they can be the champions that you know they can be.
Why do some people resist change?
Change is scary for most people. Regardless of what you are changing, whether it is big or small, or what you think of it, any change can elicit the ‘fear of the unknown’ in your staff and in response, they will resist it.
Now, you may be thinking that you can just explain and people will be open minded with the change but this just isn’t true.
Because change is emotional and as soon as emotion is involved, all logic goes out the window.
Of course, everyone will react to change differently. There will be some that will love it and will actively help to bring it about and grow your business, but there will also be others who won’t be so positive initially and they will try to preserve the ‘norm’ to make themselves feel safe. It is important to remember these people, and rather than try to persuade them with facts and figures to embrace the inevitable, use this more effective way to get them engaged and gain their support.
The five stages of the Emotional Cycle of Change
The idea of the Emotional Cycle of Change, as identified by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, is that most people going through change typically pass through five emotional stages
In this initial stage, people are afraid of the unknown and resort to the ‘protective’ behaviour of denying that the change will ever come about.
When people accept that the change will happen, it is not unusual for them to become angry over it, especially if they perceive it to be a negative one.
People naturally rationalise situations in order to make sense of them. Only when denial and anger have passed can people enter this stage.
Everyone will reach this stage at different times and when they do, they will start to embrace the change and begin thinking about the future state.
Positivity about the future state will only grow once in this stage. Your staff are now fully engaged and supportive of your growth plans.
How to help your staff accept change and support your growth plans
To get your staff to actively want to help you achieve your growth plans, you have to understand this Emotional Cycle of Change and help them get through it. Only then will they be able to transition from saboteurs to champions.
While you do this, however, it is crucial to remember that:
- These stages aren’t always undertaken in a linear fashion
- People will progress through the stages at a different rate
- Stages cannot be avoided
- People may suppress their true feelings when going through change, making it difficult to determine what stage they are in.
While it may be tempting to try and skip certain stages (primarily denial and anger) to achieve the end goal, it is essential that you let your staff grieve for how things were. Not only will this ensure that they fully accept the new changes, but it also reduces the anxiety and stress that can come with change, making sure that this doesn’t linger and affect well-being and productivity in the long run.
Here are a few ways that you can help your staff progress through the cycle:
It is essential at this stage to communicate. People naturally fear the worst case scenario, so provide them with as much information as possible about the change and its impact so that they won’t fill in the blanks themselves.
It is important to let people express their feelings. If you try to dismiss or prevent them from feeling this way, it will only make them angrier, so allow them to vent and appropriately address their feelings so they can move onto the next stage.
This is where you can start to work together and build plans for how you will grow the business, but remember that not everyone will rationalise in the same way.
Although this stage is reached at different rates, you can begin to implement your growth plan in terms of new strategies and behaviours.
Although your staff will be fully engaged and supportive of your plans in this stage, keep communicating and provide reassurance if they ever have any doubts.
What to do if some staff members still resist?
There may be some instances where no matter all your hard work and efforts of helping people progress through the Emotional Cycle of Change, they just won’t accept it. With these stuck core of people (or saboteurs!), you have two options:
- Try alternative methods of influencing them such as with an inspiring story
- Or letting them leave if they want to
Often, staff members who still resist think that changes are purely business decisions and that people will bear the brunt of that change. By using real-life examples of people or situations, you are not only showing these people the future that they could have but you are inspiring them to help make it happen for themselves.
It is important to not give up on the changes you want to implement and to help your staff through the emotions that they are feeling. However, it is just as important to remember that not everyone will always be on board with change and this is okay. If your staff choose to leave, it may just be the best thing for your accountancy practice as you need all of your efforts for growth to be moving in one direction.