Question: Several months ago, I was hired to turn around a department that was not meeting expectations. Although the staff seemed to agree that change was needed, they don't like having an outsider in charge.
While my boss agrees with the plans for transforming operations, he dislikes confrontation and is unwilling to help me win people over if it means having firm conversations. I am apparently expected to get everyone to embrace these changes on my own. Do I have any hope?
Answer: Like many managers engaged in organizational re-engineering, you have now learned that revising plans, policies and structures is often the easy part. The difficult assignment is getting existing employees to view things differently and modify established habits.
Wise leaders understand that ordering people to accept change seldom works. While "firm conversations" may be required with those who are recalcitrant, using an authoritarian approach too quickly will only increase resistance. Given the reaction you describe, this may be the source of your problem.
At this point, you are undoubtedly feeling great pressure to produce results. Under those circumstances, newly hired managers frequently make the mistake of focusing solely on tasks and overlooking the need to build relationships. As a result, employees begin to view them as aloof and disruptive instead of informed and helpful.
Start by doing less talking and more listening, especially with your direct reports.
To demonstrate your boss's support for the plan, invite him to join you in these discussion sessions. While he may not be much help with tough talks, he could be quite useful in convincing people of the need for a shift in strategy.
Marie G. McIntyre can be reached at www.yourofficecoach.com.