The Great Importance of the Perception of Change

Achieving desired outcomes depends on the ability of teams to make needed adjustments to the way the team learns, plans, interacts and executes. If your team is trying to increase sales, for example, people will need to make minor or bigger adjustments to one of the above. If your goal is to increase innovation, people will need to make lasting changes to the way they learn, plan, interact or execute.

Changing people is a complex task, but one that new science can help achieve. That said, we must set the right goals for the change.  One of these goals must be the perception of change as it applies to the people who interact with the changing team.

The way other people perceive the change that is made is important for two reasons: if other people don’t see and feel the change, they will often block the change and, if the change is experienced by others, it will not have the desired outcomes.

Ellen is a senior executive at a Fortune 500 manufacturing corporation. The goal for Ellen’s team was to increase innovation but, in order to do that, Ellen needed to change her leadership style. Ellen’s team saw her as directive and controlling. When Ellen asked the team to think creatively or to provide feedback, the team’s response was to try to find the specific ideas and wordings they expected Ellen wanted to hear.

Let’s suppose for a moment that Ellen would change, but her team would not see and feel her change, or that the team would not trust that Ellen’s transformation is “for real.” First, is it easy to see why the team would not change as a result? If the team does not see and feel the change, they would continue responding to what they experience, not to the words or promises made. If there is no perception of change, it is just as if there is no change.

Another way to think about the first reason is to imagine the criteria for measuring the skills of a sales person. If a potential client does not perceive  the skills of a sales person to be different than the way the sales person’s skills were perceived in the past, it really does not matter if the sales person exhibited those skills in a training session or with his or her team.

Furthermore, if the team does not see the change in Ellen, it will be easy for her to go back to her old ways.

People change by reinforcing new experiences that are represented in new synaptic pathways in the brain. If the feedback people get from their environment doesn’t match their own perception of themselves, people will go back to their old patterns. An easy way to understand this phenomenon is to think of someone you know who changes into their old behavioral patterns when they are in the company of people from their past.

If the change is real and if the people who change are strong enough to sustain it, people around them will eventually see and feel the change. Getting perception on your side will help speed things up and make the success of the change much more likely.

How are you measuring the success of change in your team?

Comments are closed.