3 Ways to Communicate Changes You Don’t Fully Embrace

Posted on November 5, 2012.

As a manager, you may be asked to execute changes that you don’t agree with.  No matter how much kool aid your drinking, it’s never easy.  Whatever you do, don’t hand out copies of Who Moved My Cheese and tell everyone to just get on board. (Yes, this happened to me) It’s a clever book and enjoyable, but there are much better ways to get buy in, even when you don’t fully embrace the plan.

I’ll assume that you’ve made your position clear to the powers that be and have been told to move full steam ahead.  Here’s what you need to do:

1.    Find the silver lining.  You may not be on board, but clearly, many others with higher pay grades are on board, so maybe you’re missing something. Admit you may not always be right.  Years ago, we made the decision to centralize all of our credit analyst. I hated the idea and had a really hard time communicating the change because I hated it so much. But there were some positives that came out of it. There were much better turnaround times because there was a pool of analysts vs. a few dedicated ones in market. The analysts enjoyed having a larger group of peers to learn from and commiserate. Even the worst of ideas has some redeeming quality. So find it and communicate that to your team.

2.    Expect Improvement. If in fact you’re right and it’s a bad idea, it’s highly likely that in time, adjustments will be made for the better.  In the case of the analyst pool, the company eventually moved back to having analysts in market.  They quickly realized that if you hired people in a certain city, they likely wanted to stay there. And since the analysts were also our bench strength for talent, we lost that benefit when we consolidated them. I’ve yet to see a really bad strategy last more than two years.  So tell your team to sit tight, if it doesn’t work out, have faith that adjustments will be made.

3.    Make it work for you. I love Project Runway. I find Tim Gunn especially inspiring when he critiques the designers, sees the mess they’ve concocted and tells them “to make it work”.  As a manager and a leader, you need to do your best to make the strategy as effective as possible. If it means tweaking it for your team, then do so. Even better, if you can find ways to enhance the new strategy and make it more effective for everyone, you can be a hero. Inspire your team to make the very best of a bad situation and be a role model for others.

Even the best of ideas can fail, so it’s wrong to just dismiss and criticize changes you don’t like.  If the change isn't great, find a way to improve upon it and communicate the positives to your team. Just don’t hand out a book or tell everyone to “suck it up”.  That’s no way to get buy in.