I have had the chance this week to work with a team on change management. We focused on team norms and patterns of interaction between team members. We talked a lot about expectations and behaviors and I pushed them into some uncomfortable positions. In the end, we managed to develop a new framework for how the team will operate. Mind you, it didn’t come easily. But it came on their own terms, and in the change space, that’s critical to success.
Research shows that adults only change when they want to. We can’t drive people to change. We can persuade them, try to convince them, but we can’t force them. And they only become convinced when they buy into the change.
Our time together focused on changing patterns of interaction, expectations and the norms around working as a team and collaborating. The team, like many in the corporate world, was overwhelmed by the amount of work and the expectations that had been set by their external customers, their leadership team, and themselves.
They talked about the incessant emails throughout the entire day and into the early morning hours. They griped about the need to always be on, and they talked about the expectation that they must return emails within a very short time frame. It had become taxing. I watched as we met on day one how often they all reached for their smartphones and blackberry devices to respond instantly to the incoming emails.
They were addicted to the red blinking light. I used this as a teaching moment. I let it occur early on in the day, and then started to call them on it in the second half. They immediately became defensive….”but I have to, they need this information…” And so on and so forth.
The challenge in this type of work is to get people to understand that they really are not that important. And I don’t say that to sound glib, but people are inventive. They find ways to get what they need. This isn’t to say that there are no instances when a response is needed instantaneously, but it’s to say that almost 95% of what you rush to respond to, could be done at a later time. At a time that you have set aside to respond thoughtfully.
When I talk about this with my clients, I always get push back. It’s because we’ve set expectations with our patterns of behavior that we will be there to respond immediately. It’s not realistic. We can’t. We need to take the time to get done what’s important for us and our role. Sometimes that means ignoring a few emails for a few hours to actually do the work you are paid to do.
It’s not the end of the world if the red light blinks.