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Keep the Change

The 12 Phrases for Perfecting Change Launch

Lawrence Polsky
Contributor: Lawrence Polsky
Posted: 06/24/2012

I happened to sit in on a change launch meeting last week. I was blown away. The leader did everything I personally would ever suggest to make the launch a success. Here are the twelve things he said that made the meeting as close to perfect as possible.

1. Set meeting expectations-- "Your head will probably be spinning when we are done. That is okay." When people know they will be overwhelmed, they won’t feel so bad at the end when they feel that way.

2. Set positive expectations for change success-- "You will be confident and excited" by the time implementation comes. Rarely have I heard a leader set a positive expectation for how people will feel at the end. I found it refreshing and uplifting. Is it a bit "Pollyanna?" It can be. In this case it came across authentic and well received.

3. Extend support-- "We are here for you," to answer questions, coach you, help you, etc. The change launch leader said this multiple times throughout the 60 minute meeting. Again, this might be assumed, but the extra acknowledgement was reassuring.

4. Get peer testimony of past success-- "Who has been through this process before? These are our role models. They are proof that you will all be OK when we are done." Our global research is clear 2 years in a row. People trust non-leaders more than formal leaders. A smart move.

5. It is about us, not you - "We are all going through this. Not just the people living the change, but all of us." This was helpful to point out that you shouldn’t feel alone or the target of the change. And when you do, to remember we are all in this together.

6. Timeline in one page – This aforementoned leader had one double sided page as a handout. It highlighted key phases and steps over the next eight to 16 months. This made the steps easy to understand and made the change seem manageable. He then read each section aloud and discussed key points.

7. We are role models – The change leader said, "We expect you to be role models for people going through the change. They will take seriously what we take seriously. "

8. Review key learning activities – He reviewed the learning plan and timing. This gave everyone a good idea of the amount of work required, and a sense they would be ready.

9. Acknowledge the workload-- "I know everyone has a lot going on. We will work with you to make this work, AND you will work with us". He acknowledged the amount of work and that the leadership would help. And that despite the workload, he expected everyone to do their part.

10. Explain Monitoring - There was a system in place to track progress of the plan. This was explained to let everyone know that management was on top of the change.

11. Be Firm-- "Are we serious that you must do this-- or else? Yes, we have done this before and had five people not do their work. We dealt with it head on." Some people will only do what is required if they know there are consequences, good or bad. This leader was high performing because our 2012 global research showed that only 43 percent recognize those who follow the changes, and 34 percent dole out consequences when people don’t change as required.

12. End with positive – His final energy was positive. "You will be prepared. You guys are awesome. We say that positivity is contagious, as much as negativity is. So why not be positive?!"

I know you veteran change leaders are saying, "These actions/phrases alone make the implementation work out." And you are right! The proof is always in the follow-through. But that is not an excuse to give a weak launch. Following these actions above will help you start on a positive foot, address emotions, and focus on the actions which are all critical for change success. They will ultimately help to reduce resistance and create positive momentum, which is the most you can ask for.

Lawrence Polsky
Contributor: Lawrence Polsky
Posted: 06/24/2012