Change happens. Whether at work or home or just out there in the great big world we live in, something is always changing. Have you ever noticed that when a change comes, it doesn’t take long to see people take one of two sides? You know them well – the skeptics and the advocates. But what happens when you are responsible for leading change within your organization? When you are tasked with spearheading a new initiative, whether big or small, make your job easier by keeping the advocates close and the skeptics closer.
Here are five steps we think will ensure your change initiative ends successfully and with a lot of happy advocates.

Step 1: Bring in all stakeholders even before kickoff.
One of the quickest ways to create a skeptic is to make those involved in the change initiative feel like they were an after-thought or the last to know about what is under way. Bring in all parties as soon as you can – make them feel like they have been involved from day 1. By doing so, you’ll not only show you respect how the change affects them, but also that you value and need their input. Your teammates may have the best skillset you need to complete various aspects of the project. They may also help you consider things you may not have otherwise. Give them room to truly share their thoughts and opinions. You’ll earn respect and create advocates in no time.

Step 2: Ensure there are no surprises.
Surprises really should be saved for birthday parties. Skeptics lack trust because somewhere along the line they were SURPRISED at the poor handling of a situation or experienced a lack of communication. Advocates are those that haven’t been taken by surprise; they haven’t felt the sting of the “gotcha”. Let the only surprise of your change initiative be the pleasant surprise when everything goes off without a hitch.

Step 3: Create ownership.
Look at any good parent. Are they over the moon about their child? Absolutely. Their blood, sweat and tears go into raising their kiddo and man, are they proud. When a person has some “skin in the game”, they have a reason to take the project seriously and ensure the work completed is something they are beyond proud to own. Don’t just delegate tasks to complete, let individuals take an aspect of the project and make it their proverbial baby. You’ll see better results.

Step 4: Communicate the end goal.
Greek philosopher Socrates is quoted saying, “The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
Don’t just change for change sake. Communicate the ROI your teammates will see. Will their workload decrease? Will they see more efficiencies in their department? Will their customer interactions be a lot smoother from here on out? Get them excited about what will come from the change. Without an end in mind, the change initiative will feel like useless extra work.

Step 5: Say thank you – to everyone.
Remember that old saying “you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar”? It applies here, too. Say thank you to everyone who is affected by the change and joins in steps 1-4 listed above. A little thanks goes a long way to ensure that people feel appreciated and that all their (extra) work was not in vain. In fact, when you thank people along the way they’ll be more apt to jump in and continue to provide help. They’ll even work hard to turn any remaining skeptics into advocates for you. The worst thing you can do is start a project, complete it and move on. Celebrate each major milestone, as well as the completion of the project.

Change in any form is not easy but it should be worth it. Next time another change initiative is thrown your way, confidently follow the steps above and you can ensure you have a team of advocates working beside you.

Want to know more about change? Read part 2 – on convincing your boss that change is necessary.