The author is board chair of the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association and vice president, radio at E.W. Scripps.
Robert Kennedy said, “Twenty percent of the people will be against anything.”
Baseball great Casey Stengel once said, “The secret of managing is to keep the guys who hate you away from the guys who are undecided.”
Casey and Kennedy were on to something!
During times of continuous change, people quickly align themselves into one of three camps, according to management change expert Price Pritchett.
The first group, typically about 20% of the group, embraces change. They are immediately energized and excited about change — sometimes before they even know everything about it. They are innately curious and ready to challenge the status quo.
“Starting today, we’re changing how we do things!” you announce. Your change embracers immediately sign on and can’t wait to help you implement your changes even though they don’t know every detail.
The second group is a tougher audience. Fifty percent of people will sit on the fence. They’ll ask questions. They’ll get together in small groups to decide whether they like the change or not. They’ll withhold judgment on the change. At times, they’ll simultaneously endorse the change (“This is great. I’m so glad we’re finally doing this differently”) … but they privately work to destroy it (“I can’t believe we’re doing this. It’ll never work.”) The good news: This 50 percent eventually will take sides, depending on which way the wind is blowing.
The third group, call it 30%, are active change resisters. They hate change. They love the status quo. They work overtime to protect their job, their turf and their way of doing things. The moment they sniff change in the wind, they click into gear to overturn it and even sabotage it.
Whether you’re an owner, a manager or a state broadcast association, you have to figure out how to put together a majority of people to help you change, grow and ultimately succeed.
According to Pritchett, most of us make the mistake of trying to romance that stubborn 30% who hate change, hoping we can turn them into change embracers. It’s not going to happen.
A better strategy is to spend time and energy first with the 50% of people who want to understand the change, how it benefits them and the organization and why change is important and necessary. This is your highest-leverage group, and they are worth your time and energy. Talk to them. Engage with them. Explain the change and your own reaction to how changes will affect the group.
Next, encourage the 20% who love change. Thank them for their spirit. Tell them you need their help and are counting on them. Since they love change so much, let them know that once these changes start working, there’ll be more change to come. They are your evangelists!
This is harder to do, but just as important: We pretty much have to ignore the 30 percent of naysayers. They will get louder and more difficult to manage, but you will expend important energy and credibility by spending hours unsuccessfully trying to convince them that change is necessary and good for them.
Trying new approaches that challenge the status quo takes courage and vision. Surround yourself with enough change embracers and well-intentioned fence sitters, and we’ll be successful evolving and growing.
Our business, our industry and yes, our state association will continue to change as we tackle new challenges. Our ability to embrace change will go a long way in determining our success in the years to come.