“UNLOCK THE OTHER DOOR!” The Secret to Implementing Change

articles leadership Jul 25, 2022

UNLOCK THE OTHER DOOR: The Secret to Implementing Change

You have had this experience. You are rushing into your favorite bookstore, bakery, or wine store for a last-minute gift. You see the familiar storefront; you get closer and closer.

You put your hand on the door handle and pull with excitement. Is the door locked? The store clerk looks out at you. You feel embarrassed. You try the other door handle 4 inches beside it and swoosh, that door freely flies, and the smell of fresh baked goods fills your senses.........

That moment of Jerking… That moment of embarrassment …

That is the moment.

That moment of frustration is the moment that separates ordinary from great in business.

Every time I pull on that locked door, I think, “Why is this door locked? Of course, I am speaking about the regular double doors in most storefronts. Both sides can be unlocked, but usually, only one side is unlocked for the customers to enter.

Why? I always think, “This is nuts. Do they only want ½ of the customers to get in today?”

Open both doors! Don’t be lazy. Spend 30 seconds to make it easier for me to do business with you and “UNLOCK THE OTHER DOOR!”

That locked door symbolizes a laundry list of barriers in business.

Over 20 years of running businesses and leading teams, I have discovered that that door is locked because we are weak at implementing change.

Every company has infinite ways to improve efficiencies, and while we walk by these opportunities every day; the fear of change slows implementation to a crawl.

People resisting change in the workplace is not a new problem or concept. But I am committed that we dig a bit deeper and uncover why our people resist change. So, again, let’s use the locked door as an example.

Imagine you are implementing a change in your workplace. You talk about it in your staff meeting, post a memo in the staff room, and remind people in the monthly newsletter.

But here is the secret that is almost always missed:

Did you ask your employees, “What concerns do you have about unlocking both doors when opening the store?”

Now I can hear you saying, “I don’t have time to ask my employees what concerns they have about every change.” I am inviting you to consider that this question has a nugget of gold.

With this one question, I am asking you to understand that hours of labor and implementation costs can be saved.

This one question has the power to completely transform your workplace culture from one of gossip, complaining, resistance, and personal agendas to one of creativity, engagement, productivity, and alignment.

There are many ways to ask questions, and when it becomes part of the culture, it will become natural in how people speak with one another. Each person working in your business has a set of concerns. They are concerns at the personal level.

If these concerns cannot be understood in the workplace through communication, they will cause resistance to any change, no matter how large or small.

The secret is to uncover the concerns in a committed conversation.  Only then can the company's priorities get realized with speed and efficiency.  In this case, it is the concern of customer service and unlocking both doors when opening the store.

Back to that new initiative, “Unlock both doors when opening the store”. If you could put what’s being said in your employee’s head on loudspeaker, here is a sample of what you might hear:

“I’ll be the only one who unlocks both doors.”

“Why are we unlocking both doors?”

“Will I get paid more to unlock both doors?”

“Do I know how to unlock both doors?”

“Will I like unlocking both doors?”

“I’m not unlocking both doors unless everyone unlocks both doors.”

“Who will do the other duties I have while I am unlocking both doors?”

“If I unlock both doors, will someone remember to lock both doors?”

“If we unlock both doors, what else will change here?”

“I am already too busy to unlock both doors.”

“If I say yes, they will forget about this in a week.”

“Do I have the right tools and equipment to unlock both doors?”

“We already tried unlocking both doors, and it didn’t work.”

“If I am unlocking both doors, what else will I be asked to unlock?”

“What will the other employees think about me unlocking both doors?”

“I’m looking for another job anyway, so who cares about unlocking both doors.”

“I’m not going to unlock any doors.”

“Finally, we are unlocking both doors; it’s about time.”

Now, With all that going on, is it any wonder even the smallest of change is met with resistance? Nothing great can be implemented over what is already there as concerns.

The secret to implementing change is to get what is already there in the background heard. It is only when what is already there in the background conversation of your business is heard and acknowledged that change can be met with accountability, speed, and energy.

This requires a paradigm shift in management. To commit to hearing your people, you must be willing to listen to whatever they say without correcting, justifying, or defending yourself. This skill is vital for leaders to be influential in implementing workspace change.

You do not have to engage with the employee in back-and-forth dialogue. This is not an exercise in resolving something. This is an exercise in understanding the other person’s point of view with compassion.

When you can fully understand your employee's concerns without having to do anything with them, something unique happens - the worries can disappear!

When you successfully hear your people, something else can emerge. The possibility of partnership, teamwork, and pulling together now has room to be created.

Unlocking the other door is the secret. It is here where the seeds of great workplace cultures are nurtured.

Imagine a workplace where every employee is uncovering the locked doors to deliver its mission. It ends with leaving your employee with the experience of being heard, known, and appreciated.

And if you have one door locked in the front of your store, please make that the first change!

Find more resources on leading your team to success here.

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