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Curium Solutions – Simplified Change Management, Birmingham, West Midlands

From attacker to advocate

By Chris Finnegan

From attacker to advocate – Curium Solutions’ Senior Consultant Chris Finnegan presents a quick guide to transforming mindset

Picture this: You’re standing at the front of a crowded room, with row upon row of eager eyes staring expectantly at you. The adrenaline is pulsing through your veins, masking the nerves you are trying hard to keep at bay.

Despite arriving early to ensure everything is set up, the projector won’t work, so you fiddle with power leads and make small talk with the audience while waiting for the IT team to come to your rescue.

Seconds feel like hours under the intense glare of so many eyes. You can feel beads of sweat begin to form on your brow. The voice inside you is whispering, “They know you’re nervous!” but still you maintain your smile.

Suddenly, the door swings open and in marches your knight in shining armour – the IT guy – who quickly gets to work on resolving the issue. The power kicks in and you breathe a sigh of relief as your perfectly crafted PowerPoint slides beam up on the screen.

With the emergency averted, you check yourself and prepare to deliver. Your mind is rushing with advice: get into the right position; make eye contact; speak slowly and regulate your breathing; keep on smiling – all while the eyes continue to bear down on you.

As you attempt to start the presentation with your witty opening, a voice from the audience abruptly cries out: “This is ridiculous – I don’t even know why we’re here. This new system that you’re going to show us is a joke – we don’t need, and we don’t want it. You might as well just give up now.”

I’m sure many people can relate to a situation like this. You’re under immense pressure and have worked so hard to get this far… then something happens which derails your best laid plans. In these situations, it’s easy to react with similar abruptness. You feel threatened. You feel wronged. Don’t people realise what pressure you’re under? You have every right to put them in their place… right?

Wrong. Rather than viewing this as a threat, it could be seen as the biggest opportunity available to any change professional. Throughout my career, I have found that some of the most negative and disruptive individuals can become the biggest allies if the appropriate action is taken to change their thoughts and beliefs.

You just need to find the key to converting their negative force into a positive one.

Only a few weeks ago I came across this scenario – an individual who didn’t hold back in publicly declaring his dislike for a new system was drawing a lot of attention to some minor issues, and detracting from all the great achievements.

To address this, I asked for some time with him on a one-to-one basis. I took the time to listen, allowing him to get his thoughts off his chest, and then proceeded to respond to his questions with open and honest responses.

I articulated the challenges we were facing, and asked for his opinion on how we might address them. He was thrilled with the opportunity to voice his opinion, and then apologised for his behaviour; promising to change. This person is now one of the biggest advocates of the project, championing the system, and even helping others with training needs!

My practical advice is this:

  • Identify your biggest and most vocal critics
  • Develop an engagement strategy to bring them on board (creating personal responsibility)
  • Encourage them to use their platforms to bring others on board

Now these situations and individuals don’t present themselves to you every day, but luckily there are ways that you can seek them out.

For example, in a previous organisation, I would monitor internal social media platforms such as Yammer to identify anyone whose posts had an influence over their network, and would earmark them for special treatment. Anyone earmarked would receive special invitations to feedback and update sessions where they were made to feel part of the project.

By bringing them into the project circle and allowing them to input into the design (albeit in small ways), these individuals felt a sense of belonging to the team, and used their platforms to promote positivity rather than negativity.

So, next time someone interrupts your presentation, think twice about how to respond!  

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