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Employee Adoption Starts with Leadership Empathy

by Elise Olding  |  May 27, 2014  |  Submit a Comment

Here’s the scenario…

The leadership team at R#*3P Enterprises has been locked in strategy meetings for months, creating a new vision and direction. There have been a lot of heated debates to get to the point of alignment. The direction for the enterprise transformation has been set. Now it’s time to share this with the rest of the employees, partners and suppliers.

A much anticipated email is crafted. It took the executive team several days to craft and hits everyone’s mail boxes on Monday morning. It lays out the imperative for the change: the competition is attracting customers and gaining market share. Its offering is far superior and much easier for its customers to access. It goes on to detail what the chosen direction is (a re-organization, revamp of legacy technology and outsourcing) and lists the executives responsible for the decision. The email closes with advice to “get ready to be part of the change” and “stay tuned for further information.”

By noon on Monday the R#*3P Enterprises is thrown into chaos. Rumors are rampant. When employees go to their supervisors for more information, they are greeted with blank stares and the familiar phrase “I’m sure we will know what we need to do and when we will need to do it.”

Back at the leadership team’s offices, they are perplexed. The imperative is clear and the direction for the future seems straightforward and necessary. Why don’t they trust our insights? What is causing this reaction? Why can’t the employees just get on board and support the direction?

The next time the leadership team assembles, they blame their organization for being “change adverse” and lacking the skills that will be needed in the future. Tactics are discussed to remove “dead wood” and hire the right people who will be ready for the changes.

Sound familiar? What the leadership team is missing is empathy – empathy for those not in the room making the decisions for the last several months. The leadership team has had plenty of time to understand the threat, discuss the options they can take and form a common direction. There were plenty of times when the direction was not clear and many of them were not on board. It took a lot of discussion and working through examples to align on the chosen direction.

What they missed is that their organization (and partners, suppliers) all need this same time to “adjust” to a new way of thinking. Unfortunately the leadership team at R#*3P don’t recognize this and continue to forge ahead. This transformation will be one of the 70% that fail.

If only the leadership team had allowed the time for employees, partners and suppliers to embrace the new ideas, make them their own and be part of how the implementation would happen. There are many proven techniques to introduce a transformation effort to an enterprise. The first step in the journey is to bring others on board – early. That starts with allowing them the same time to adjust, understand and embrace the changes that the leadership team granted themselves. A little empathy can go a long way.

What do you think? Any of this resonate?

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Category: bpm-strategic-planning  digitalization  employee-engagement  organizational-change  

Tags: organizational-change  process-improvement  transformation  

Elise Olding
Research Director
7 years at Gartner
32 years IT industry

Elise Olding is a Research Director covering the complex challenges of organizational change and business transformation from a people perspective. Her areas of focus include organizational change, communications strategies and emerging trends in employee engagement from a hands-on practitioner view. Ms. Olding provides research on a worldwide basis, advising clients on best practices to achieve sustainable change and business transformation. She is a member of Gartner's Business Process and Transformation team. Read Full Bio

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