Avoid ‘Change’ Initiatives

March 12, 2014 Updated: April 24, 2016

Over 75 percent of “change” initiatives fail. What’s really going on? 

Change excites some people and freaks out others. We either stay the same or move toward or away from our goal. This is only clear after we take action steps we decide are in our best interest. 

Change initiatives focus on changes, rather than on desired outcomes. Each individual has his or her perception of what’s going on and often defaults to automatic, counter-productive listening habits.

Here are several scripts we have identified that are playing in the background.

When we approach anyone with a business problem to be solved, they often default to this script: “I have the answer, and if everyone would just listen to me and do what I say, everything will be all right.”

They switch into a persuasion mode and, if their ideas are not heard, get angry, blame others or the company, or pout and withdraw from the conversation. 

To avoid this trap, engage others in a conversation to find out what they are committed to or are willing to support before you ask for their input. 

In business projects we’ve been involved in, participants often feel this is too slow and want to jump right into getting “buy-in” for their initiatives. However, when we connect others to our projects through listening for their intrinsic motivation, we can pull success out of the jaws of defeat.

Here is another common listening perspective: “This is just like,” referring to what we did at another company, or something we’ve read about or experienced before. 

By making the “just like” comparison, we effectively withdraw from the conversation. Stay connected to others instead, and listen for what is unique about what others are suggesting.

Yet another script is, “How are we going to do this?” This stops progress since we slow down until we absolutely know how we are going to do something. This script is not a conversation allowed in the early stages of our breakthrough process. 

An executive brought a list of how to’s to one of our initial project meetings. Luckily he showed it to me and I suggested we were open to his ideas—but not just yet. He put the list away and actively engaged in the process. 

Later, he told me he often invested time and frustration trying to unsuccessfully “sell” his ideas. By following a structured process with others of similar commitments, he soon found his ideas were welcomed and respected.

One of the most seductive internal listening habits is “Right/Wrong.” No one can predict with any degree of accuracy what will or won’t work until we take action. There are many ways to accomplish a similar result. The issue is commitment to an approach, not what is the “right” way. 

After all, “I have the answer, and if people would just listen to me and do what I say, everything will be all right.” By listening with the “agree/disagree” mindset, we listen for what is “right” (in our own mind) rather than testing possibilities for the future. 

There are many other scripts of automatic listening, but for now, I hope this stimulates you to identify and uncover automatic listening habits that potentially block the achievement of breakthrough goals. 

Producing desired results in business is not a finite game. Yesterday’s “winners” may be today’s “losers.” We produce breakthrough outcomes, profitable results, high utilization, new technologies, and new ways of doing business by keeping the ball in play.