One of the things you quickly learn as a workplace culture coach, is that there can be significant differences between what your point-of-contact wants (i.e. the person calling or hiring you) and what everyone else in the organization wants. You learn to assess both, best you can, and strike for that happiest meeting ground between the two as your coaching sweet spot.
Thus, the question I’ve learned to ask is, “What is your team ready for?” It goes a bit deeper than asking, “Will we get buy-in for what we plan?” and frankly, it saves a lot of misdirected time and energy: Why plan a training program that misses the mark, and will potentially upset people?
When you think about a proposal for change (and that’s what most training is), thinking about it in terms of workplace readiness will bring cause-and-effect to mind: What must happen first, so the end result you desire will soon follow?
Readiness and Acceptance Go Hand-in-Hand
A workplace is like that proverbial china shop, and neither of us, change agent or coach, want to be the charging bull that wreaks havoc for no productive reason.
In another scenario, the bull is your people — when they feel they’ve been cornered by impending change that scares or bewilders them.
This is not just a question we face in new training: All managers are change agents (or they should be), and when change is on the horizon, “What is my team ready for?” becomes a daily question.
To return to the concept of buy-in for a moment, readiness and acceptance go toward change hand-in-hand: They are partners, where one checks that the other is okay. The best kind of acceptance is when eagerness and enthusiasm kicks in; the comprehension, obedience, and compliance of “Okay, I’ll try it” aren’t enough for the readiness of true buy-in to happen.
Is the void you’ll fill one of Participation, or one of Direction?
That said, workplaces aren’t entirely democratic places, are they. And for the record, I don’t think they should be: Democracy has its place, and so does leadership. The clarity of value-mapping is a must, and strong, visionary directional leadership is essential in the overall confidence of a healthy culture. To state it more succinctly, there are times we WANT our leaders to lead and direct us, and not be wimpy about it.
So the question for the Alaka‘i Manager becomes this one: “When can we charge ahead full throttle, for this is such a fabulous idea!” And conversely, “When must I first work to help my team get ready? What do we need in our Circle of Comfort and our places of greatest potential?” You’ll often be looking to see where more participation is needed in step-by-step decision-making: People march best to the sound of their own drum. (Do you recall the story of Ferdinand and his flowers?)
If you’re getting push back, whatever your change initiative might be, slow down to ask yourself these questions of readiness, and those of participation versus direction. Harness the bull and give it some sweet clover to eat: Going forward is always better with the right nourishment to sustain you, even for bulls.
Archive Aloha with related reading
Here are a few articles written to help managers cultivate that Circle of Comfort I refer to:
- Next-stepping and other Verbs
- Managing: Be a Big Fan of the Small Win
- All Conversations Are Not Created Equal
- Managing: Let’s talk about the Basics
- The Acid Test of a Healthy Workplace Culture