Gary Winters

Coach  Workshop Facilitator Author

The More Things Change

It’s been widely observed and generally accepted that the world is changing at a faster clip than ever, and that the rate of change is accelerating.

What’s not changing, however, is our capacity to absorb it, deal with it, and integrate it. We still do it the same old-fashioned human way as our ancestors did – but today, we have much more to absorb.

How do people react to change?

I learned a great exercise in a workshop with Ken Blanchard years ago that beautifully illustrated seven “dynamics” of change.

Participants were asked to find a partner, stand facing them, and take a few moments to “memorize” their appearance. Next they were asked to turn back-to-back and alter (change) their own appearance in five ways. People removed jewelry, loosened their tie, took off a name badge, etc.

Then they were asked to face one another and see if they could tell what had been changed. After a few moments, they were instructed to turn back-to-back a second time – and make ten additional changes to their own appearance – for a total of 15!

Lots of nervous laughter. Comments like “You’ve got to be kidding!” and “There’s no way!” filled the air.

None-the-less, people did their best, and once again, faced one another and tried to identify the changes.

Finally, Ken asked everyone to thank their partner and return to their seats. Everyone did – but not until they’d put everything back in place and returned to their original appearance.

Ken debriefed the exercise, pointing out seven fairly predictable behaviors as people attempted to make changes in their own appearance. As he pointed out, these behaviors will appear regardless of the change being made. Not everyone experienced all of the dynamics, but in a group, it was a safe bet that someone reacted with each one.

  1. First, most folks felt awkward and ill-at-ease as they gazed at their partner, trying to memorize their appearance.
  2. Second, most people found themselves asking themselves a question – “What do I have to give up?” when asked to alter their appearance. This was demonstrated by the fact that nearly everyone “subtracted” from their appearance – they removed watches, rings, and nametags. Very few if any “added” to their appearance.

When asked to make an additional ten changes to their appearance, four different dynamics were on display – not by any one person, but by the group as a whole.

  1. Many people felt overwhelmed. Ten additional changes was just too much to ask.
  2. Many people also felt that they lacked the resources to do what was asked. They would later joke that they “hadn’t worn enough clothes” to make more changes. They also admitted they felt stumped – as though they weren’t smart enough to comply with the instruction.
  3. Some folks felt isolated and alone – they felt they had to figure it out all by themselves. They demonstrated this dynamic by avoiding eye contact with other participants, and by not scanning the room for ideas from others.
  4. There was a wide variety of thoughts and feelings about making those ten changes. People were at a different level of readiness to make the changes. Some took it as a challenge and enjoyed puzzling it out – others balked, and some even quit the exercise and sat down.

Finally, when Ken asked participants to return to their seats, nearly everyone reverted right back to their original appearance, even when they had made changes that would appear to leave them more relaxed (such as loosening ties).

It’s critical that leaders understand these dynamics and prepare to deal with them.

Whether you’re about to introduce a new policy, a new system, a new set of goals, some new technology or whatever to your team, you need to consider how you’re going to handle the human dynamics of change.

Can you help people feel less awkward and ill-at-ease in the beginning? Sometimes, this can be as simple as acknowledging that they are going to feel awkward. Making it okay to have an experience can minimize the uncomfortable feelings about that experience.

Are people likely to wonder what they have to give up? Again, acknowledge that there may be losses, but there’s much to be gained – and point out what.

If people might be overwhelmed, or feel that they don’t have the resources to make the change, give them tools, training, change partners, tutorials, examples, demonstrations, coaching and the like. Same goes for the folks who might feel isolated – pair them up with others.

If you fail to address the natural, predictable, human response to change, you may have a new problem to solve – the tendency for people to revert back to older behaviors. If, on the other hand, you can support them through the uncomfortable stages of change adaptation, you will greatly increase the odds of successful implementation.

“What ELSE Your Boss Never Told You” is the sequel to the very popular “What Your Boss Never Told You.” Packed inside are more tips, techniques, and insights about the challenging, but rewarding leadership position.

“What ELSE Your Boss Never Told You” is written in a conversational tone, as though you and the author were enjoying a cup of coffee and talking about the issues that emerge for new leaders. It stands alone, and/or could be read before or after the first volume, “What Your Boss Never Told You.” You can start with any chapter and read in any order you like.

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No textbook here – this book is short and sweet. It’s designed to help you “unpack” your new job and be effective from the first day with your new team. It contains twenty-one chapters filled with the wisdom Winters has gathered from real managers – effective, successful leaders in organizations much like yours.

Leaders make decisions every day – big and small. Most know that if they include others in the decision-making process, the quality of those decisions – and the commitment to them – will likely improve. That said, they also know it’s impractical, if not impossible, to include others in every decision they confront.

“To Do or Not To Do” tackles the question of when to make decisions on your own, and when to involve your team. It gives you a deceptively simple but proven method to determine, when you are facing a difficult decision, how to decide how to decide.

Far too many meetings are dreadful, mind-numbing, energy-draining, productivity-sapping, colossal wastes of time. As someone once said, “To kill time, a meeting is the perfect weapon.”

Here’s the deal: if you’re willing to learn and apply the techniques in “So, How Was Your Meeting?”, you’ll call fewer meetings, while vastly improving the ones you do lead. They’ll take less time, have more balanced participation, produce better decisions, and result in concrete action items for follow-up afterwards.

While there are thousands of books written for people about to retire, this may be the only book for people who manage soon-to-retire employees. Written in a casual, conversational style, “Managing the Soon To Retire Employee” will give you everything you need to know to move forward with confidence and grace.

You can be successful with Sooners. It won’t happen by chance, and it’s not a matter of pulling some management “trick” out of your hat. But you can learn how to do it, and you can apply what you’ve learned right away.

Managing friends or former peers can be awkward. When you become the boss, everything about these relationships can suddenly be uncomfortable. There’s a new set of ground rules to establish – as manager, you are going be accountable for the work performance of friends or former co-workers on the team, and they are going to have to adjust to the fact that they now report to you. Everyone involved can feel awkward and hesitant about the future. 

Have you been approached by management with an offer to promote you to supervision? Or, are you mulling over the possibility for the future? Find yourself not sure whether to accept the promotion?

If so, you’ve come to the right place. Help! They Want to Make ME a Supervisor will help you sort out a very big question: Should you accept the offer to become a supervisor? Once you’ve read this book, you’ll be confident that you’ve made the best decision for you and for your organization.