A Walk In Their Shoes

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One of the best ways to help people navigate through change is to put yourself in their shoes.  Looking at a situation from someone else’s perspective helps you understand what individuals and groups need to engage and commit to new ways of working.  

When thinking about an organizational change, consider the questions that people in the organization have on their minds.  If you were in their shoes, what would you want to know?

  • Why is the change happening?  People want to know why the change is happening.  Remember, if you are leading a change, you have had months of preparation and planning for the change.  For most employees, this is new information.  They may have heard rumors, but their first real information is when the change is announced or formally communicated.  Whatever the answer is to the “why” question, share as much as you can.  It is better that people get their information from the change leaders than making up their own answers.
  • If we just wait, won’t this just go away?  If people are burying their heads in the sand, get their attention and make sure they understand that the change will not simply disappear.  (If you have started and stopped projects or changes in the past, this is harder to sell, but it is still just as important.)  People who believe that this might just disappear are much less likely to commit their time and energy to the effort.  And that lack of engagement is a drain to productivity and limits the probability of the change’s success.  So people need to understand that this is not going away.  
  • What will the change mean to me?  Tell people what it means to them individually – or as specifically as you can.  The more specifics you can provide, the more their comfort level rises.
  • What is the risk of not changing?  Make sure that that people understand the consequences for the organization if change does not happen.  The risks of not changing for the organization can be anything from bankruptcy to loss of business to limited opportunities for growth.  If people understand how they would suffer as the organization would suffer, the realities of why the change needs to be successful may sink in.

Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is not always easy.  It requires us to think outside of ourselves and tap a level of empathy that might not be intuitive for some. 

If you are having a hard time figuring out what people might want to know or what questions they might have, the solution is quite simple… just ask them.  But to get started, ask yourself, “What would I want to know if I was in their place?” 

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