At DCC we gather data from Independent Agents that gets to the heart of how easy it is for them to do business with P&C Carriers. We analyze the data using the DCC Index to give our clients a clear awareness of their improvement opportunities, and we point them to where changes will be most beneficial.
Pinpointing your best opportunities is a crucial first step. But to seize these opportunities, leaders must inspire change.
Driving change is not easy. If you want to lead change, here are some suggestions to help you get started.
PREPARE to be Resisted – DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE CHALLENGE
Many is the time that I’ve identified a problem and personally seen the clear path to a solution. My enthusiasm makes me feel that if I can see the path for successful change, then so will everyone else. I assume everyone will share my excitement. I show people the data and announce the changes we can make to turn us around. After an impassioned speech I shut up and wait for their agreement with breathless anticipation.
What do I typically hear? Nothing but crickets… or even worse, people smile pleasantly, pretend to agree, and then do nothing.
This is because people struggle with change. In the words of DCC Founder Nort Salz, “Nobody likes change but a wet baby.”
Think about when you’ve been asked to make changes. What were your first thoughts? Probably either:
- Why should I do anything different? Things are going pretty well for me right now with the way things are. It doesn’t feel like this change will benefit me.
- Oh snap (or some other less professional word), another new thing to do. I am not sure I have the time/capability/resources to do this new thing.
Undoubtedly, these same thoughts are going through the minds of the people you are trying to influence. While your passion for the change is necessary, it will NOT, in and of itself, be enough to gain buy-in.
Therefore, you should PLAN AHEAD and anticipate resistance.
PUT YOURSELF IN THEIR SHOES
When preparing to lead a change initiative make sure you can answer these questions:
- Will the people involved have the time, resources, capability and know-how to make this change? If not, what can we provide to them to transition as easily as possible?
- Why is making this change important to THEM?
- How can we help them feel the urgency of the need for this change?
These answers will be different for each group of stakeholders you engage.
DEVELOP SUPPORT & ENGAGEMENT AMONG STAKEHOLDERS
Strong leaders personally demonstrate the behavioral changes they are trying to promote. Leading by example is critical. However, it is not by itself sufficient for substantive change. To be successful, you need to enlist others to help you.
First, you will need the support of the top leaders in your organization. Without their support you will be like a salmon swimming upstream. It will be almost impossible to get others to want to help you unless they feel the top leaders also see the benefit. It will be truly impossible for you if the top leaders are against the change.
If you can convince the most influential people in your company to support your change initiative, the path is easier to the next step.
To truly succeed in driving the change, you also need grass roots engagement. The people being asked to change — the ones “doing the work” — will have the best idea of what is needed to successfully achieve the goal.
For these reasons, you should put together a planning team drawn from the people who will implement the change.
To help you develop a better plan, the members of this team should be competent and thoughtful about what they do. They should also be well-respected by their peers. This will help them sell the change to the rest of the team.
Pro Tip: Do not include people who are generally averse to change of any kind.
It may be tempting to involve them, thinking if they buy in, everyone else will, too. In reality, they will only derail your initiative.
Real change will be harder and take longer than you think it will.
Even when you’ve successfully proven the need to change and you’ve developed support and engagement, you will have setbacks. Anticipate that there will often be two steps forward and one step backwards, and don’t get discouraged.
There will always be people who are resistant to the change. A few will be openly resistant and many others passively resistant. Your goal over time is to decrease the resistance.
MONITOR & MEASURE
Monitoring and measuring your progress will help you persist by reminding the team of your mutual goals and why the change is necessary. It will allow you to celebrate as a group when you see improvement. That, in turn, inspires more enthusiasm. People want to be part of successful initiatives.
To seize opportunities, leaders must inspire change. Effective leaders help people embrace change through careful planning, positive engagement, persistence, and measuring progress.