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Helping Your Team Members Change Their Priorities

Updated: Nov 3, 2020

It seems like an impossible situation. Your direct reports are already stressed and stretched to do the jobs the way they’ve always known.  Yes, some are more productive than others, and some are making good improvements toward the goals they think are important. But many are ignoring your emphasis on the new direction.

A new strategy calls for different behaviors But your company is going in a different direction. You’ll need team members to go after different customers. You’ll need them to spend more time and energy on the more lucrative accounts. You’ll need them to learn and apply some different skills. It’s not enough for them to hear a quick explanation of the shift, it’s different now, and they would rather work on improving what they already do unless they see a clear path from the familiar.

Shift your communication in 7 steps: This will require you to change the way you communicate. Be ready to:

  1. Acknowledge what they’re used to

  2. Signal the shift in your business strategy

  3. Explain what is needed and why

  4. Break it into steps they will need to take

  5. Explain the change in ways

  6. Help people gain the new skills

  7. Repeat the above steps as often as needed

Acknowledging what they’re used to connects you easily with their brain pathways and ties what you’re about to say with their comfort zone.

Signaling the shift in your business strategy will be the first of many explanations you will need to make, as their emotional reactions may put them on the defensive right away. They will often reduce their real or imagined stress by putting the new message on “Ignore.”

Explain what is needed and why. This is their first opportunity to imagine themselves doing what you actually need done. Make the “why” as vivid as possible.

Break it into steps they will need to take.  Since their stressed brains are probably on overload because of daily work and because of some resistance to your change in message, breaking it into steps makes it possible for them to see what the change will entail.

Explain the change in different ways. There is a huge variety in how people take in information. Some will get confused at the slightest misinterpretation of the words you are using. Others will say: “Yeah, yeah, yeah. This is just like what they told us last year.”

Help people gain the new skills. Just telling them about the change is not enough. At the very minimum, you’ll need to walk through how they’ll apply new approaches in their typical workday and give them answers to what to tell their customers or co-workers who demand their old methods.

Repeat the above steps as often as needed. Explain the change in every meeting with individuals or teams for at least six months and mention the change for a lot longer. Don’t be surprised that all of these communications are necessary. You are a change leader!

“A concise and effective tool… It provides context, inspiration, and great actionable content.”

— Mark Holzbach, Creative and Tech Community Connector, Co-Founder, Zebra Imaging

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