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Ignite the Fire of Change
Written by Pauline Melnyk
In a recent CPHR Alberta webinar, “Ignite the Fire Of Change,” we challenged our mindsets to address change in our workplace with a powerful metaphor of fire. Metaphors are a figure of speech that makes an implicit, implied or hidden comparison between two things that share some common characteristics.
This figurative language was designed to stimulate our minds and in particular, the way we approach change based on our mental models. You see organizations seldom change without some external reason or pressure to do so when we stimulate discussion around what is currently occurring; we can begin to speak directly of the issues faced by our leadership teams. If you found it a bit of a stretch as you are not already sitting at the executive table and you (HR) are an afterthought in those addressing change. It’s time to future proof your practice.
“Visuals and Communications are important in change.”
As HR professionals, it’s time to get up to speed with the patterns of metaphor, the words used by those leading change and build effective communications to those concerned. Using language, they will understand and appreciate as a ‘firefighter’ might using visuals and different approaches to change the likely impacts. Likely strengths and weaknesses were apparent in the use of the metaphor of fire in the presentation. Were you moved/unfrozen to existing habits, changed even though the future and direction were not specific? Metaphors can make a profound difference in the way we manage change and how we are provided with a degree of psychological comfort by having tools at hand.
The traditional perspective of addressing emergent change with clarity of vision and agility is enhanced by approaching the change with additional structure and simple tools in your organization. What is your change vision, countering volatility, enabling the organization to maintain direction and mobilizing your team? You are on the front line with the highest priority over loss; loss of talent are there embers smouldering over time or the visual indicators of flames as the essential agents of change in the organization. Our first poll question rated your change in the context to your current state, more than 70% of all respondents needed planning and communicating action on the change currently going on. Visuals and visual tools help communicate the plans of change in your organization; more importantly, they are also a gauge to help bring clarity. VUCA Prof. Csikszentmihalyi
Volatility to Vision (vigilant to moving towards your strategic vision)
Uncertainty to Understanding (need to understand quickly – context, clear)
Complexity to Clarity (caution – what is the ‘danger zone’)
Ambiguity to Agility (alarm and action / choice and accessible / advantageous or disastrous)
Heat the conversation up, create a place in your organization where teams can come together, chatting more, laughing and reminiscing or even staying late. Be the fuel source for change in your organization with supports to managers and leaders, help set the appropriate tone and leadership style. These ‘fire pits’ are where we make room to address human behaviours, ask questions, address fears and establish common goals.
Create clarity of current state and future state
Change is seldom linear, and neither should be your tools and approach to implementing. Preparation and readiness are critical to helping your organization thrive, and your people survive. With every interaction be prepared to adjust your plans and ensure that you test assumptions, address misunderstandings, misinterpretations and biased thinking. Ask your team members to “experiment.” Ask the executive leaders and sponsors of the change the following questions based on the SCARF Dr. David Rock model: -
- STATUS – Will people still feel good about themselves?
- CERTAINTY – What do you know for sure, when will you know more?
- AUTONOMY – Do you have perceived control over what you are doing?
- RELATEDNESS – Are you one of my tribe, or will you eat me?
- FAIRNESS – Is this a fair and equitable decision or process?
Coaching is the number one tool in the HR toolkit for providing support to your employees going through the change and implementing the change. HR can change the trajectory of results; you have many tools in your toolkit; it takes courage and trust to step into positively influencing change in your organization, or igniting a fire in your people. It takes courage to step up and step out of the box, move beyond business as usual. 71% of participants indicated in our 2nd poll that you are prepared to walk through or dance with fire.
The new contract between the employer and the employee is TRUST (E-Scan Edelman Trust Barometer 2019), work to address systemically at all levels of your organization, bring awareness to the rewards and punishments, employees performance is it rewarded, think to empathy and consider how technology may be decreasing your capacity for empathy with your employees. Ask yourself the hard questions, look for data that confirms or denies - Are they activating the ‘don’t talk to me feature,’ do you see the ‘call and respond’ process deteriorating? Constant transition and positively influencing change require new tools to create lasting behaviour change and authentic happiness. Help the teams spark creative imagination and curiosity of learning rather than engagement expectancy. HR is more than a cheerleader, create a culture of credible dialogue, a passion for story and narrative. Create an opportunity for employees to ‘Flourish’ in this climate of disruption.
Dr. Martin Seligman advocates for leveraging PERMA to create an environment in organizations. Strategies for improving how employees and stakeholders experience - positive emotions, engagement and flow, relationships, meaning and purpose, achievement and accomplishment.
#1 read your communications, emails – What is being said? What is the tone of the message? Is it positive or negative?
# 2 what’s going on around you – what is the climate within your organization?
# 3 ignite a problem or a controversy, spark something which stimulates a person’s curiosity to learn or activity to increase the speed of change. Merck -Todd B Kashdan (curiosity is the commodity of the future) – speaks to millennials as the most curious demographic, creating space for opportunities to invest in curiosity, ability to inspire colleagues or hire creative talent.
# 4 help your leaders deal with the geopolitical extremes, business agility, wild technology and media disruption - Amy Webb 2019 Techtrends Report (Video) addresses the systems of the future, tech trends and impacts to Human Resources and your industry - what’s happening in China, digitalization as a priority.
# 5 personally learn to ask better questions, be open rather than resistant to change, be equipped to manage uncertainty, doubt and anxiety arises from exploring unfamiliar, uncertain terrain.
68% of participants are ready to blaze a trail to use your planning as a ‘fire break.’
CHANGE Management Certification : Why change management is essential, why people embrace or resist change, drivers of change, models of the change process, roles and responsibilities of a change sponsor and change agents, stakeholder strategy, communication and engagement, facilitation, team building, assessment of change impact, change readiness and relationship with project management.
Pauline Melnyk is a Business Leader and Strategic Consultant in Organizational Change and Leadership Development, with over 20 years’ experience building the leadership capacity and effectiveness of large, complex organizations. Pauline partners with program leaders and project teams to capitalize on the full benefits of the organizational system design and change resilience of employees. Demonstrated success and extensive experience Pauline is a highly influential coach, advisor and facilitator.