Updated: May 29
What do people really mean when they say, "I don't have time"? Because the best-laid change management or transformation plans crumble at the sound of those four words.
What you do next will define you; do you go with Option A or Option B?
I don't have time! As a Change or Transformation manager, what do you do when you hear those words in relation to your change initiative?
A. show them how much you love your solution by promptly moving to persuade the person that they do have time by extolling your change initiative's virtues and its benefits to them.
B. Wonder what is bringing this person to avoid or resist the change initiative?
If you selected option B, congratulations; you are one of only a select handful of change managers that I have worked with over the last twelve years.
Option A is about transmission (talking at); it amplifies resistance to your position and, ultimately, brings people to become more entrenched in their view that they don't have time for you or your change initiative.
Option B stimulates curiosity (talking with), which brings you to ask questions. Questions bring answers, where, if you actively listen, you gain insights that allow you to describe the world according to the other person. When you can describe this other person's world, you are gaining empathy. Empathy leads to a shared understanding that creates rapport through common ground. Rapport brings an openness to influence, and influence leads to behavioural change. [see our article on the FBI Behavioural Change Stairway for more information]
What "I don't have time" really means
Generally, you will come to find that "I don't have time" really means, "I don't know how to tell you how I really feel":
I don't feel you are giving me a choice here [autonomy - the ability to choose whether to engage not]
I don't have the knowledge, skills or experience to do this [competence to carry out or survive the change]
I don't get why you are doing this or how it benefits my team or me [relatedness or connectedness to the change]
Next time you hear, "I don't have time!" instead of talking at the person, try talking with them and ask, "What can I do that would make it worth your time?"
In doing so, you will be resisting the reflex response to convince people how much you love your solution. Instead, you will be demonstrating your ability to fall in love with their problem; providing them with insights into how your change initiative provides them with meaningful and valuable solutions and new opportunities.
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