Productivity & Effectiveness

How to move people into motion

By 08/11/2021 No Comments

A business is successful because of the people within it. People doing good, valuable work and moving into action around the right things.

So, if you’re delivering a strategy or making a change, you’ll need to move people into motion. Action around delivering the good that your customers want / need and in a way that is not forced, nor mandated.

It’s a journey of sorts and it requires a few things in order to move people into motion.

Firstly, it requires knowing roughly which direction to head in. This is where many managers fall over. They either try to codify every single detail of a strategy or change programme, to the point where there is no room to adapt, or they hope people just get the gist of it through vague communication.

In the worst case a Target Operating Model or a strategy document is created and circulated, with the vague hope that people will know what good looks like through simply seeing it.

This is not how change and action happen. It happens by role modelling and leading the change. It doesn’t matter whether that change is big or small, you need to lead and gather people around the movement.

If we look at the word motion and stick an “e” on the front, we get emotion. People move into motion when they feel something. So, it’s our job as leaders and managers to help people to feel something. You cannot make people feel anything they don’t want to, but you can help them feel something by leading and showing them what the journey is and how to move into action.

To explain this I’ll use the analogy of me pulling a car.

The car is heavy and I’m pulling it from the front towards the horizon. I’ve identified a bright, compelling and rich future vision or painted picture. I’ve leant into where I am and am starting to lead the action from the front, by pulling the car.

Sadly, there are people at the rear of the car pulling in the opposite direction. They are not doing this through bad intent. They likely have positive intent. Maybe they are worried about the new direction, don’t understand it, don’t feel like they know their place in it or they don’t feel they have a role to play. All opportunities to help them.

The majority of people in your business are in the car. They are making it hard to pull in either direction. So, your job as a leader of this change is to encourage as many people as possible to get out of the car and join you at the front.

How do you do this?

Explain the direction and obstacles you can see clearly and ensure there is a plan in place. This is technically a strategy. Carefully create it and communicate it well. Remember, communication is something other people do.

Give feedback to those at the back and ask them to stop resisting and join you. This demonstrates that you see them, hear them, acknowledge them but you want them to behave differently.

Listen to people at the back and in the car. What is worrying them? Why are they concerned? What can you do to help them?

Surround yourself with influential, talented, passionate people. Find those who are keen for change and help them out of the car by giving them more power, influence or responsibility. Get to know them and find out what their career aspirations are and organise work around these. Don’t overload or overwhelm them – help them to drop existing commitments if they are to pick up new things. Engage them in this journey and encourage them to pick up key pieces.

Communicate clearly what the journey is and the next steps. Remember DISC? Well, this is useful here. Some people may join you with a vague description of the path, but others will need details and next steps. Break the journey down and this will help many join you as you overcome obstacles on the path.

What’s in it for them? Keep asking yourself this powerful question. Why should they get out of the vehicle and join you? Why would they invest energy and attention on this? And if you default back to “because it’s your job do so it” – try again.

Look at the system of work and fix any processes, rules, incentives, goals or anything else that is preventing people from joining you. As a leader or manager you own various aspects of the system – change what you can to help people do a great job. Working on the system of work is a key responsibility of management. Fix broken processes, remove silly rules, get rid of the red tape.

Train, coach and nurture people. I often see managers rolling out technical and product roadmaps with no plan for their people. Your people need a plan too. What does that look like? What training is available? Who is there to support them? Who will coach them? How will they grow? Answering these questions will help you to build a plan.

Tell stories. Stories of how the company and the people will be better, faster, smarter, cooler, more valuable because of the change. Stories go where facts cannot.

Role model the behaviours that are needed for this bright future. Do people need to innovate? Then demonstrate innovation. Do people need to be more customer centric? Then demonstrate it. A good example is important, and it beats a shiny PowerPoint or HR job description any day.

Provide information to those who need it. You can tell a lot about a manager by how they share and flow information. Is information getting to the right people? Do they have the insights and data to do a good job? Study how information flows and you will find many levers of change to pull.

Closing Thoughts

Because the more people you can get out at the front pulling the car (or company), the more momentum you can get. The more people there are to solve problems. The more traction you will cover.

And it becomes really hard to pull in the other direction.

This is when change happens. This is what good managers do all the time. They gather momentum by helping people to feel something. And when people feel something they move into action.

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