by Steve Adubato, PhD

We've been getting interesting feedback from readers to the Q&A format. People have written in with a variety of challenging communication questions and issues. Topics including delegating, coaching as well as communicating with difficult employees have been addressed. This week we tackle the issue of organizational change.

Q—Mike Nash is a consultant who helps companies deal with strategic planning and organizational development. He writes, "Usually most human beings do not sense the gradual change that is occurring in their business life, social life and family life. We call this the 'boiled frog syndrome.'" Nash says he has realized that over the years if there is only "one frog in the pot, it will usually get boiled. However, if there are at least two frogs in the pot, one of them might tell the other that the water is getting hot, we should change the strategy and turn off the heat." Still Mike wonders how resistant teams in the business world can become more aware of the need to change.

A—Great question, Mike, and I love your "boiled frog" analogy. But here is the thing about change. No matter what we say about it, most of us really don't like it. We like stability, predictably and consistency. There are so many things in our lives that we have little or no control over, that we fight to hold on to the things we believe are within our power to manage.

The funny thing is, when it comes to business, constant change is really the only choice we have. It's like what they say about a shark. If it doesn't keep moving, it will die. People and organizations have to keep moving. We must continually analyze the opportunities, challenges, risks and rewards as we make decisions about things both big and small.

The best way to communicate about change is to focus on the BENEFITS of embracing a culture of change. More specifically, leaders must understand what moves and motivates their employees. The benefits of change can't simply be those derived by the organization. People need to see the payoff to them personally and professionally. They must see the change as doable and realistic, and they must also buy into their role in implementing this change. The worst thing you can do is talk about compliance or "getting on board or else." When you do this, people often go through the motions of supporting a change effort as opposed to being truly committed when things inevitably will get tough. Instead of compliance, we should be seeking a commitment to change.

Further, leaders must communicate to team members the consequences of holding on too tightly to the status quo. We must create a sense of urgency (not panic) that makes it clear what the price of inaction is both to individuals and the organization as a whole. This isn't about being punitive, but rather communicating in a clear and compelling fashion that fighting change is risky business in such a competitive and dynamic business environment.

Finally, it is critical to celebrate the change when it is implemented. Too many leaders forget the pat on the back that all of us need. This isn't just true in the world of business. Our spouses, family and friends find change difficult as well. When someone we care about has worked hard to change something that we've asked them to change, don't take it for granted. Communicate in an up front fashion by simply saying; "Thanks...I appreciate you trying so hard. It means a lot to me." Just ask yourself what you would want to hear if you were in their position?

Thanks for your question, Mike. I'm sure you weren't the only one who was thinking about it.