5 Essentials to Embrace Change Successfully!
You may have heard the quote, “The only thing that is constant is change!” It is true that change is inevitable but not always positive or successful!
The reality is that some work cultures support positive change while other cultures sabotage it. There are many factors involved, such as team workload, other current changes in progress, team beliefs, clear communication, benefits of the change, appropriate training, coaching, and support provided during the process, etc.
Challenges in Implementing Change in the Workplace
I have the privilege of helping dental teams nationwide create a happier, healthier, and higher-performing culture that they will enjoy coming to every day. This always involves making changes. I often observe team members roll their eyes and let out deep sighs of frustration when they hear there is another change heading their way. They stress and worry about how it will affect them and how long it will last.
Change for many of us is often scary. The fear of change comes when we start the assumptions of “what if” thoughts! How many times have you been afraid to make a change because of saying to yourself, “But what if this happens”? You just “what if-ed” yourself right out of action.
Think about this. How many times has fear stopped you? The ironic part is that fear is really only a negative prediction of the future. In most cases, what we worry about doesn’t happen. What actually happened, we didn’t even think about or worry about, and yet we still survived. It’s proof that worry is a total waste of energy and time. If we can learn to evaluate the real danger, as opposed to the perception of danger (“what if”), we will get a more realistic viewpoint, and we will be less afraid to make the change. Imagine how much happier you would be right this second if the fear of “what if” had no impact on your decisions. What would you do or change? What would your life look like right now?
Change requires us to have the courage to face our fear of “what if” in unpredictable and unknown circumstances! Regardless of how dysfunctional, unhappy, unproductive, or toxic the current culture may be, it often feels safer to keep the status quo. The known almost always feels safer than the unknown.
That’s why it is imperative that the value of the change be clear to those asked to make the change. It is essential that the value and benefits of change rate an eight or above on a scale of 1 to 10. Otherwise, the chance for the change to be positive and sustainable is limited.
There are five essentials to help dental teams rise above their fears and embrace change as a positive process:
- Trust in leadership
- Clear and consistent direction
- Structured plan
- Adequate training and practice time
- Realistic workload
The number one essential necessity to embrace change is trust in the leadership. If team members trust their leader(s) they will be more willing to step into the unpredictable and unknown. Leaders can build trust by embodying the following traits:
- “Model the waddle” is the number one leadership principle; in other words, lead by example
- Have a clear and consistent direction
- Be transparent by communicating to keep the team in the loop as much as possible
- Be open to suggestions and feedback
- Address any obstacles, fears, or concerns the team may have about the change
The second essential is to communicate a clear and consistent direction. It’s important to use a decision strategy to avoid fly-bys and emotion-driven decisions in the heat of the moment. I teach the following four strategic steps:
- What’s in the best interests of the patients, practice, and the team – not any individuals – for the long term (months or years vs. hours or days.)
- What is practical and realistic based on time, people, and money currently available?
- What is the precedent being set? Is it fair, or will it divide the team?
- What is the level of passion we are willing to support the decision with?
Set your team up to succeed by communicating the change clearly and concisely. I suggest the following communication process:
- Clarify expectations
- Ask questions to make sure everyone understands
- Write the objective down in bullet points
- Identify equipment and supplies necessary
- Schedule adequate training and practice time
- Set realistic expectations for completion time and date
- For more involved longer tasks, schedule a check-in
The third essential is for leadership to work with the team to develop a well-structured plan. If you want the team to embrace a change, ask for their suggestions and feedback on how to implement it. If you want the team to have ownership, give them authorship as well. A well-structured plan is well thought out and clearly defined.
I teach teams the R.I.S.E. Implementation Process to help them work together to create a well-structured plan.
R.I.S.E. stands for Review, Implement, Sustain and Evaluate
- What is it we are currently doing
- What is working and what is not
- Keep what is let go of what is not
- WIIFTT – What’s in it for the team if we make the change
- What are we going to change
- Who is going to do it
- Who are we going to do it for
- When are we going to do it
- Where are we going to do it
- Why are we going to do it
- How are we going to do it
- Create standard operating procedures
- Schedule the roll-out date
- In order to sustain a new change, it must become a habit
- It takes a range of anywhere between 17 to 257 days to form a habit depending on the difficulty
- Give any new change at least 60 days to get comfortable before considering any additional changes
- Be precise and consistent to form habits much sooner
- Support the change positively in words, actions, and attitude
- Is the process still working effectively
- If not, what are the value and benefits of a change
- Any change takes ongoing tweaking
The fourth essential is to schedule appropriate and adequate training and practice time. I have found that the most positive and successful changes happen when the team has time to train and practice.
For new team members, have clearly written weekly goals for the first three months. Review the progress with the new team member weekly. From three months to one year, shift to clear written monthly goals and review monthly. Having clear written goals helps manage the expectations for the new team member as well as the existing team.
For existing team members, meetings are the perfect opportunity for training and practice time. Utilize your team meetings to:
- Review and update systems and protocols
- Implement new ideas
- Monitor the process of yearly goals
- Practice, practice, practice
- Verbal skills, role-playing, and physical walkthrough
Team meetings are most effective when you:
- Schedule often enough
- Set apart enough time
- Schedule when most can attend
- Get feedback from the entire team
- Encourage solution-focused suggestions on how to overcome potential obstacles
The fifth essential is to be realistic with the workload. It will be very difficult to get the team excited about embracing something new if they are already swamped and consistently running behind. It is important to evaluate whether there is enough time, money, and people to successfully implement the change.
Don’t firehose your employees with changes. Implement only one or two new things at a time. Even the most committed employees will become resistant to change if they are consistently overwhelmed.
Cultivating a culture with these 5 essentials will help you rise above the pain of change and make it a positive process.
About the Author
Judy Kay Mausolf is a speaker, author, and dental culture specialist with expertise in helping others get happier and more successful! She coaches dentists and their teams on how to become better leaders, communicate effectively, work together better, and deliver service with more focus and passion, which results in cultivating a happier, healthier, and higher-performing culture.
She is the Past President of the National Speakers Association (Minnesota Chapter), Director of Sponsoring Partners for the Speaking Consulting Network, and a member of the National Speakers Association and Academy of Dental Management Consultants and recognized as a leader in consulting by Dentistry Today. She is the author of three books: “TA-DAH, Delivering W.O.W. Service, and “Rise & Shine!” Additionally, she’s a contributing author for many dental magazines. She also publishes a monthly newsletter entitled “Show Your Shine.”
Judy Kay lives in MN with her awesome husband, Steve, who makes her special coffee every morning!