Why a Change Agent Can’t Change People – and What To Do About It

Posted by Rock LaManna

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I consider myself a change agent.  Unfortunately, there are just some people I can’t change, and the reason why could spell doom for a printing business.

Is that an outrageous, over-hyped statement?  Not when you consider what a change agent does.

A change agent’s functions are many.  He or she can help you seek out positive new developments or markets.  Or, he or she can show you how to look internally to find ways to improve performance.  There are other functions, but you get the drift.

What’s ironic about change agents is that even though we know we need them as business owners, we still fear them.  We’re creatures of habit, and we don’t like to change.  Look at how children love their routines. Grown-ups aren’t all that different.

This is the big reason why even the best change agents in the world can’t change people.  

So what do you do if you need to change your people?  Heck, what if you need to change yourself?

Here are some tips to help people accept change:

Focus on the positive and make it grow.  The world is filled with negatives.  You can always focus on the glass being half-full, but where does that get you?  If you are launching a new initiative, focus on the good things that are resulting from that change.  When you have results, then make that component of the program grow.

Let go of the problems. You may feel the urge to try and fix the problems, but make sure they’re worth fixing.  For example, if you’ve launched a new program and two business development reps are failing at it because they’re resistant to change, they’re not worth your efforts.  Instead, applaud the success of others.

Get specific on what you want to happen.  Change in the conceptual sense can be intimidating or inspiring.  Barack Obama used it quite effectively in his initial presidential campaign, championing himself as a change agent without getting too specific about exactly what he would change.  People wanted a change from the business-as-usual approach in Washington, so the approach was effective.

However, this can backfire if your team doesn’t want change, especially if you’re not specific about what it is.  So get specific.  Tell them the exact behaviors you’ll need to get the business working right.  They may not like the change, but you’ll get much less resistance if the uncertainty and dread is gone.

You can’t change people who don’t want to be changed.  But you can make change easier and more palatable to swallow.


Photo by: darinrmcclure

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Topics: Printing Industry, Strategy