Updated: Jul 24, 2020
New Ways of Work. The 'NEW' in that phrase can also easily refer to 'change'. Change isn’t easy, something we’re all working through in this para-normal during Covid-19.
Today, my story starts with telling the tale of the most difficult client session I’ve experienced (yet) and the lessons I've learned as a result.
Once Upon a Time in a land not so far away ...
I was working with a team of 23 people, in a sales environment. We had already followed the process of creating smaller, more autonomous teams (two self-formed teams of 12 and 11 members respectively were created).
The beautiful thing was that these two teams were now achieving numbers, stats and metrics that the business model and spreadsheet never thought possible. The two teams were in a nice rhythm, communication had increased, innovation had started, competition had risen, and a few positive tensions had emerged, but overall these 23 individuals were achieving amazing things in a very short space of time. New Ways of Work was working.
Then, the dragon awakened ....
The second piece of work that needed to be embarked upon was to ensure the earnings model was in line with the purpose of the teams, their goals and their contribution to the larger business. Lots of feedback loops, discovery processes and overall hard work was done by (and with) this team to build an earnings model that would fundamentally serve the individuals and the larger company better.
Rapunzel had a lesson to learn ...
This was all great, where the difficulty came in was MY ASSUMPTIONS.
I assumed that if we changed earnings/income for the better, everyone would be open and excited about it. The leadership team created a very comprehensive slide deck, setup a meeting with all the stakeholders and then introduced the new model.
The result? Chaos. Two weeks of chaos.
Luckily, I am writing this in retrospect, so I can honestly say we managed to steer the chaos, and that the greater team are now all in alignment and really backing the new earnings model but, in respect to our open Kaleidoscope way of work, I wanted to share my insights:
1. Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose
Firstly, working within transformation and the ‘new’ arena of work means we have a keen understanding of purpose, mastery and autonomy as key performance motivators (in work, as well as in life). I'd recommend you watch Daniel Pink's Theory to further understand this - click here.
Along with these three core principles, compensation is known as a 'hygiene factor', not a motivator. Click here to read Hertzberg's Two-Factor Theory in this regard.
As you may know, these are not new frames of reference, nor new bodies of work, but still very relevant within context today.
2. Resistance to Change
Secondly, the whole story about people not liking change. This is another pearler that has been passed on throughout the workplace over generations.
What I learned is that introducing change to an individual's earnings (whether it is an increase or a decrease) should be treated in the same way.
I had made an assumption that by introducing a new earnings model, it would guarantee that everyone would be delighted about the potential to earn more each quarter. I was wrong. Very, very wrong.
The real shift came about when 3 of the 23 team members reworked the new earnings model to speak to what they were experiencing now vs. what they would be experiencing in future.
In essence, one of the ‘early adopters’ in the team was able to internalise, understand and communicate the new model, while the rest of the team remained uncertain.
People need time to follow a process when it comes to change, because all of us deal with change differently, and it’s important to create a workflow that allows people the space (no matter how long, or how short) to work through that process.
I didn’t design the session in the way of ‘new’ or ‘change’ – I had designed the session, the interaction, the slide decks and the communication as an announcement/ introduction. Subtle, yes, but vital, as I learned.
Yes, we had done all the pre-work to include the greater team, but when it came to finalisation, I didn’t treat it as ‘new’.
In retrospect, I should have created more time to discuss, design and added an exercise to test understanding. I could have used more real examples of how the current is being experienced to how the new will be experienced.
I could have created a platform for more robust debate, more time for questions, more empathy-based sharing of knowledge vs. ‘launching’ something new. Just because the calculations shows that you will be earning more, doesn’t mean it is going to be embraced immediately. That’s not how we as humans are wired.
“Most people don't like change. They revolt against it, unless they can clearly see the advantage it brings. For that reason, when good leaders prepare to take action or make changes, they take people through a process to get them ready for it.” ~ John C. Maxwell
3. In Conclusion
The lesson I learned: treat change delicately, no matter what. Even if you can show the hardcore facts, allow your fellow colleagues the time to absorb, translate and internalise. Always create the space for that, even if it is a ‘slam dunk’ in your mind – we need to go through the process of understanding ...... and then we’ll be great.
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