4 Questions to Help Managers Motivate Change

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By Steve Bookbinder


Almost all managers are now expected to transform their respective teams in order to succeed in a rapidly changing market and media environment. But how?


The harsh reality is that it's not easy to get people to change and a lot of change initiatives fail. In most cases, organizational-change failures are driven by negative employee attitudes and unproductive management behavior.


Driving change begins with you, the team leader, and your mindset.


You can manage the status quo, but you must simply lead change. That means moving you and your team from certainty and comfort to uncertainty and discomfort. As painful or difficult as that sounds, it’s also necessary.


Any organization that is not changing is actually dying, because the status quo can make you more irrelevant with each passing day.


Here are four critical questions that will help make change happen:


1. What will successful change look like? Rushing headlong into the process without having a clear idea of the desired result is a bad idea. It’s critical to learn exactly what your organization’s key leaders are looking for.


Their responses and input will provide you with obvious guidance, but also give you some buy-in from them to support the process. Don’t go about this alone — it’s bigger than you, and you need sanction from higher up the chain of command.


2. What do I need to change about myself first? If you plan to be the exact same person in the new environment, you’re probably being a bit naïve. Think about specific aspects of your own skill sets that need to be upgraded before asking the same of your staff.


The bottom line is that change is about performing better and differently on both a collective and individual basis. No one gets a free pass, and certainly not managers. As a manager, I have always lived by the motto “Never ask someone to do something that I wouldn’t do myself.”


That’s especially important when you’re trying to bring needed change to the team. Most team members are keen observers of their managers, whatever changes you make in yourself will become apparent to them quickly.


3. Do I have the horses to get this done? Yes, this is a hard one. Common sense (and Darwin’s theory of evolution) says that not everyone on your team is necessarily capable of succeeding in the new environment that you need to create.


Recognize that sometimes painful fact sooner rather than later.


While each member of the team should be given the chance to make the cut, there will likely be a few that simply cannot. I have always addressed this situation by being explicit with everyone about what we’re about to do.


Tell them what the demands are and what’s expected of them in the new environment.


Quite often, those who know they are incapable of pulling it off will depart on their own. In reality, that’s a win for the manager and for the team, too.


4. How do I convey what we’re about to do? At our nation’s military academies, future officers are taught the importance of commander’s intent. In a nutshell, it is the requirement that everyone under a given officer’s command can describe the mission and its outcome in no more than a couple of simple sentences.


Eliminating any confusion or misunderstanding of what’s expected from the team is essential for a successful outcome. Far too often, managers fail to spell it out when it comes to leading change. People are left confused, anxious, and even angry about what’s going on.


Your team members need and deserve a crystal clear picture of what’s expected. I’ve always done this in a meeting with everyone present, and I ask repeatedly if anyone has any questions about what I’ve stated.


Never underestimate the importance of clarity at the very beginning.


Leading change is a challenging and often uncomfortable process.


Enhance your chances for success by answering these questions with solid answers before you get started.


Steve Bookbinder is the CEO and sales expert at DMTraining.