At the end of April, I had the opportunity to attend a Women in Financial Services leadership roundtable focused on the topic of “Selling Change When Change Matters Most.” Change can come in many shapes, sizes, and forms, but there was one universal agreement among the women around the table: change will come. In fact, it is likely swirling around you as you read this blog post.
When discussing their best strategies for selling change in an organization, there was no disagreement or misunderstanding on the necessity for change and that the timing for change is now. Focusing on how to actually sell and implement change led the conversation to drift towards the challenges that come with change: challenges in priorities, pace, and people.
The financial services industry presents its own unique set of challenges in implementing change, namely that the top of the priority list is always the same: compliance. While important, this can frequently overrule other business process changes that create efficiencies and business value. The leaders in the room discussed personal strategies behind how they push their proposed changes higher onto the list of priorities. Among these strategies was a focus on gathering the data necessary to make a compelling argument for change.
Data should be compelling but not complex. It should support, not muddy, the decision to be made. When strong, clear and compelling data is presented, it makes decision making easier. But what if the data doesn’t exist? Can you get by on gut instinct alone? The answer from our roundtable was a resounding “no.”
If there is no data, now is the time to devise a strategy to start collecting it. Technology, when chosen appropriately, can provide real-time data that can substantiate the business case for change. Such is the value many find in our TrackVia solution — the ability to capture and analyze data, as well as take action on data. Once you have clear, concise data, your ability to successfully sell others on change gets infinitely easier.
You can’t really talk about selling change without discussing managing change, which can be a sales job in and of itself. A strategy must be developed around the speed at which that change will take place and the people who need to be carried along through the change.
In my family, holidays are focused on one word: pace. “Pace yourself with the main course, Grandma made her famous peach pie for dessert!” “Pace yourself during the 5K race or dad will come back at the end and leave you in the dust… no one wants to hear about that for the next 3 years.”
The same concepts can be applied with organizational change; too much too soon will leave the team so sick of change that they lose their appetite for future changes (and for the second helping of that peach pie). Change that accelerates faster than the capacity of the people in an organization leaves people uneasy or far behind. One of the roundtable participants pointed out that change itself is not a destination. Change is a journey and journeys require a certain pace. Go too fast and you’ll leave roadkill on the side of the road. Go too slow and your organization will be left in the dust by the competition.
So, how do leaders find a pace for change that allows their people to keep up, but also enables growth at a pace to let them lead the pack among the competition? The number one priority should be to find the right people. As one woman mentioned, leaders should be looking for team members who are comfortable when changes occur from a Friday to a Monday. With the right people, leaders are able to develop a culture for change that permeates the workplace and encourages employees to find comfort in changes.
Drawing from both professional and personal life, the experience of these leaders in the room highlighted the importance of empathy in guiding people within an organization through change. Women in leadership must leverage their empathy and their passions to drive opportunities for change while putting emotions aside…especially fear.
The final question of the afternoon was from Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”
When selling change, fear can easily permeate the mind of the salesperson – fear of taking on the challenges of priorities, pace, and people. However, with strong conviction backed by data and a strategy for success, those fears can be minimized and opportunities for success optimized.
I’d be curious what fears you’ve experienced around change and how you’ve overcome them?