“In the past 10 years, we’ve created a lot of change that benefits our employees. Why then are they still complaining about the same things as 20 years ago? Our staff engagement surveys and focus groups produce valuable information, but we haven’t gotten to the bottom of what is going on. We need more meaningful insights to inform the change that will allow us to reach our highest potential as an organisation.”
Our client hit the problem on the head: “How is it that we co-create results that nobody wants?”
This is an ambitious leader. He aspires to create a work environment which inspires a sense of belonging in all employees. He wants to bring out the best in everyone. He wants them to thrive individually and to contribute their best work to their teams and the organisations.
Working hand in hand with clients like this, we set out to uncover the systemic forces below the surface. While going through this process, we train change agents. In their interactions with many colleagues, they seed the culture of co-shaping the work environment. Here’s what we’ve learnt in our work:
How to uncover the invisible forces underneath a challenge
Surveys, even well done ones, get you answers to the questions you ask. When you conduct a survey, you inevitably lead the audience.
Dialogue, on the other hand, allows your conversation partner to shape the conversation.
Let’s take a contentious topic: the hybrid office. I’ve coached many leaders in the past 2 years who have tried hard to keep everyone happy and engaged. Yet, if all you ask people is: “How many days should we be in the office, and what days should these be?” Then all you get is differing view. And whatever you decide, people will be unhappy.
However, when people engage in dialogue with one another, the conversation can shift. For that to happen, everyone needs a chance to share what they see, what they experience, and what’s important to them.
Change is a conversation
Dialogue can give you more than new data and better solutions. It also embeds a culture. When you engage your employees in the process of figuring things out, they feel seen and heard. Their perspective is considered before designing the change. And this matters to everyone. There’s more to a well designed change process that engages the whole system. But dialogue is at the core. And dialogue is how we set out when designing the change process.
To get your employees’ buy-in and commitment to execute small or big change, you don’t have to make everybody happy. People stand behind change when they understand why it is necessary. They are willing to align their individual with the group’s needs. But they first need the chance to share their perspectives, their worries, their ideas. And they need the chance to understand other perspectives. That allows them to make sense of the whole. At the end of the day, change is a conversation.
What change have you been struggling to lead? Reach out to us for an exporatory conversation!