Feb. 16, 2017 | InBrief

Got change? Meet me where I'm at

Got change? Meet me where I'm at

I recently read an article about the change that credit unions are forging to better meet their customers' expectations. It had a great line that said, "If you want to reach consumers, you have to go where the consumers are." That is why in 2016, when 78 percent of Americans had a social media presence, Zeal Credit Union in Livonia, Mich., decided to place its focus on consumers via social media. They kicked off the #ZealTheLove social media campaign which encompassed much more than posting on social media with a hashtag. Members were able to interact in the branch by taking pictures with in-branch signage or show their pride for their credit union with Zeal t-shirts and bumper stickers. #ZealTheLove is proof that a social media campaign can go beyond the confines of the Internet to deliver something that is tangibly impactful.

Reading about Zeal Credit Union got me thinking about managing change for clients, companies, and customers. What if we stopped trying to find the people in the methodologies, playbooks and processes and instead we went to where they are to better understand how to help them manage change? What if, next time we met them where they are at—whether at their desk, or on their social media profile—and asked them how they feel about change? Would that be so revolutionary? I think it might actually be a revelation of sorts, and a way to make us all better change leaders.

I often remind my teams and clients that I can't read minds, despite all my attempts. And I can sit for all the certifications out there and still that won't bring me any closer to understanding how people uniquely respond to change. So, I do my best to take the guesswork out and remember that we are in the business of people. I make an effort to meet people where they are at, and that usually starts in an honest conversation with my stakeholders that goes something like this:

  • "How are you doing?" (Actually listen to their response)

  • "How are you feeling about the upcoming changes?" (Listen intently for emotion and sentiment shared in response)

  • "What do you wish you knew? What do you want to learn more about? What do you wonder about when it comes to the future changes?" (Understand the power of perspective - past, present and future - informing their response to change)

  • "What keeps you up at night or what do you worry about when it comes to this change?" (Increases your empathy)

  • "What does success look like to you when all this change is settled or completed?" (Portrays a clear picture of success)

  • "What can I do to help you and your team be successful in this change?" (Shows them they are not alone in this change and take copious notes and follow through)

Remember, this should be a conversation, not an interview. As they share, you share, as they emote, you relate, commiserate and possibly even ideate. Do your best not to offer solutions at this stage, because this is about meeting them where they are at, not doing the work for them. Solutions and scenarios for success will come later. People want to start this journey being heard and gaining trust and perspective. The work will follow, and has more chance of success when built on a solid foundation based on trust and insights shared. Don't be afraid of candor either, as that can help avoid potential pitfalls when managing change.

Finally, as you start to build out plans to manage the change, build in plenty of touchpoints to keep the conversation going and meet your stakeholders where they are at. Striking a healthy balance between a high tech and high touch approach can make a real difference. Don't be surprised as you see stakeholders move along the change curve with more fluidity than expected. That comes with trust and intimacy supported by proximity and personal investment.

Image courtesy of Women of Color in Tech Chat.

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