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They Hate Change! How to Get Teams to Accept Change a Little Easier

Let’s face it. No one likes change. We worry if we are going to like the new change, if it will benefit us or whether we will be able to overcome the new hurdle. The fear of the unknown causes us to resent most changes in our lives. If you are in a leadership role in a hospital you know how teams struggle with even the smallest of changes. How can we get teams to accept change a little easier?

The What, Why & How

“Who changed the

brand of toilet paper!?!”

Change is change no matter how

small. I have witnessed teams lose their poop over a new brand of toilet paper, paper towels or disinfectant solution. They feel an injustice has occurred to them. No one consulted with them over the change. It just happened. No one explained to them when the change was going to occur. It just did one day. No one asked for their opinion.

There are a lot of changes that occur in a hospital at any given time. Some are big changes and others, well, are a change in the brand of toilet paper being used which really are small changes. Ideally moderate to big size changes should be communicated in person to the team at a meeting. Unfortunately, most veterinary hospitals execute meetings poorly if at all. Meetings will have to be addressed in a future blog as there’s no room to address them in the small scope of this blog. That said, in person communication of change is always the most effective. For smaller toilet paper-like changes an email or word of mouth will suffice.

What is Getting Changed

Explain exactly what is going to be changed.

Why is it Being Changed

The more details the better. Veterinary professionals love data. If you can bring data into the why you will get better buy-in. For example, you are changing the schedule to reduce overtime because the last quarter X amount of hours had occurred. The hospital’s main disinfectant is being changed because data supports the new one is more effective killing XYZ with less contact time. You get the picture. Present all the why data behind the reason for the change.

How Will the Change be Implemented?

If it is a change requiring training or a transitioned roll-out be sure you have developed a solid plan for implementation. Nothing leaves teams more worried than when leadership doesn’t provide dates or a plan on how the change will occur. If you are changing to a new computer software program for the hospital you will need to address training programs in the timeline. You may modify your timeline as you implement the plan, but not coming to the table with any plan will be disastrous making your team wonder if they will survive the new change. If you need to change the timeline as the new change is implemented be sure to communicate that to the team.

Do You Have Any Questions?

This is the fourth step in getting better buy-in. Ask this question. Allow the team the chance to ask questions and obtain answers. When we fail to perform this step it causes most changes to fail. The team may not understand the new change or struggle with the new policy. If you do not ask, “Do you have any questions” you will never know if they understand the change. Ensure every member of the team understands the new change and will commit to executing the change regardless if they agree with it or not.

How Are You Feeling?

Feelings are scary. That’s why leaders don’t ask about them.”

This is the fifth step in announcing the change and often the step that gets skipped. Leaders don’t like to ask about feelings. Feelings are scary. However, not asking about feelings isn’t going to have your team not have feelings. Instead they will leave the meeting feeling like leadership doesn’t care. They will go out onto the treatment floor and say such statements as, “Just one more thing. They don’t care about us or how busy we are.”

As a leader you need to have your team understand you are aware that the change will impact them emotionally. It will cause some to be scared, excited, worried, angry or happy. Whatever the emotion to the change, employees will have one. By asking each member how they are feeling you show you care as a leader. This question will also allow you to get an overall understanding of how the team is going to handle the team as well as identifying change champions.

Change Champions

Every change needs a champion or two. These may be individuals who love the new idea or policy or they may be individuals who understand why the change needs to occur and are willing to accept it even if they don’t completely agree. When you ask about how each member is feeling about the change, you will then be able to identify your change champion. Empower your change champions to be successful. Thank them for accepting the new change. “I really appreciate your support. What do you think could be done differently or better to help get others to accept this new policy?” Give them the tools and resources they need to help implement the change. Reach out to them and ask for their help on getting better buy-in.

Give Me 60

Ask your team to “give you 60,” and you will have an easier time rolling out new changes. If they know at the end of 60 days you will seek out their opinions and suggestions, the new change will be better received. You should want to hear from the individuals who are impacted by the new change to see whether it has produced the desired effect. If not, the team can help you make it better!

You can alter it to just asking your team to give you 30 days to try out the new change and then you will get their input on what may need to be changed. Scale it back to asking your team to try out the new change for just two weeks. Certainly not all changes can be tweaked, but many can. Some changes are just fact. Rolling out a new healthcare plan is just a fact. Checking back in with your team at the 60 day mark won’t change anything. However, changing the schedule and asking them to try it out for one or two months likely will get better buy-in if you check in to see how the schedule is going. Perhaps instead of the 9am to 5pm shift the team may suggest a 10am to 6pm shift would be better. Remember you are part of the team as well so be sure to seek their opinion and ideas on how the new change is going.

All Leaders Have Hated a Change They Implemented

It does not matter if it’s the owner, president or CEO of a company. At some point all leaders have had to roll out a change they were not happy about. The best leaders are like coaches. When the team is down and clearly going to lose, a coach brings a team together and says statements such as, “I know we are down, but we are an amazing team. We need to go back out there and try our best. We have overcome adversity and we will again today.”

What good leaders don’t do is say, “I’m sorry guys. This new policy just sucks. I don’t like it either, but they are making me present this to you. It’s just terrible. Sorry.” So many leaders make these statements thinking that teams will understand it's hard for them to roll it out. When such statements are made you instead tell the team "I have no idea how we will survive this change." As a leader you need to rally the team rather than defeat them.

If it's something that will be hard or negative it's okay to acknowledge it but leave your own emotions out of it. Stay focused on the topic. "I know this new policy is hard. I also know we have been through a lot together. We will manage through this together just like we have in the past. Does anyone have any ideas of how we can navigate this new policy together?"

Stem away from defeating statements that will bring the team down and cause them to be even more resentful or upset over the change than they were. The best leaders are also the best coaches. Coach your team like a sports team and rally them to win over the new change.

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