YOU HAVE THE BIG CHANGE you’re trying to take your organization through. You’ve created the wonderful slides which explain why it’s necessary, how the org chart is changing, and even why life will be so wonderful after the change.

And then having all the employees actually change what they’re doing … it slows to a crawl. You even see instances of reverting back to the old patterns.

What the heck is going on?

So you work on giving the messages over and over. Making sure your leaders are on board. Changing the metrics to highlight and reward new behaviors.

All good stuff.

It’s quite likely that you haven’t dug into this area, though: Why your people feel safe.

People resist change, especially that imposed by the outside. They struggle to quit smoking or lose weight, even though they know exactly why their life would improve if they did. The comfort zone is a very real thing.

As a leader, one of the tools you may have is to beat people up for not changing. Unfortunately, many people respond to this by just looking for the easiest way to escape the pain. Maybe just by quitting.

I also believe that you’re also getting into disrespectful and even unethical behavior when you go this direction.

Far better is to help your people WANT to change. But how do we do that?

One of the most powerful questions is: What makes it safer for me to change than to not change?

The most powerful answers here will come from factors which are large and universal, not just because that happens to be the mood you’re in today. We need to change because customers are demanding something different than a year ago, and without customers we have no jobs.

We need to change because the competitors are taking our customers away from us through better products and services.

We need to change because government regulators have altered the playing field, and our standards are always to comply with regulations.

In each of these cases, you’re helping the individual to conclude that I’m going to be happier if I support the change. I’ll have a job, and my work will be more valued.

At the end of the day, each employee makes their own decisions about how they’re going to behave. Even with great processes and systems, that doesn’t alter what people want to do if they don’t want to change.

So focus on what’s going to make it safer to change than maintain the status quo.