Overcoming fear of change

As business owners we are often eager to improve the operations of our business. Unfortunately, we often meet resistance from employees. This presents a challenge to the owner who wishes to improve his business. If employees will not make changes in their behavior, improvements are very difficult.

The key to overcoming the employee’s fear of change is to create an incentive for them. While money is not the only incentive, it is usually a powerful motivator. If the desired changes will result in increased profits, a bonus system to share those additional profits with employees can help them overcome their fears.

Enlisting employees in the improvement process can also help. When an owner acts like a benevolent dictator and imposes change on the employees, they often resist. However, if the employees are involved in the process of identifying and planning the needed changes–through a process like Total Quality Meetings–they are much more likely to “buy in”.

Involving employees can begin by simply asking them what improvements they would like to see. Ask them what frustrations they experience in their job. The answers may surprise you, and prove enlightening. Too often owners view the business only from their perspective. Employees however, often have a much different perspective.

Owners typically embrace change much more readily than employees. Consequently, the owner must address the concerns and fears of his employees. He must help them see the benefits of change. If he can make them willing participants the changes will be far more effective.

At the same time, the owner must set realistic expectations regarding the speed and extent of change. In this regard, slow but steady change is ultimately more effective than rapid change that is quickly abandoned.

Employees are a part of your team. If you want them to perform at their best, help them help you. If you work together they will be much more willing to help you build the business you want to own.

Bottlenecks and systems

Many small business owners believe that problems and frustrations are simply a part of owning a small business. But it doesn’t have to be that way. These bottlenecks–situations that create undesired results–can be eliminated, or greatly reduced, if we have a process for identifying and remedying them.

Problems and frustrations do not go away on their own. They require effort. And the key is to have a process–a method for systematically identifying and resolving these stresses.

1. Identify the bottleneck—Name the problem, frustration, or undesired result.

2. Identify the cause—This often requires probing. Don’t settle for the first answer that pops into your mind. The real cause may not be obvious.

3. Identify the actions that will eliminate or prevent the bottleneck—What actions will lead to the desired results? This will likely require change.

4. Write a detailed list of the steps involved—Make a step-by-step list of all of the actions involved in achieving the desired results.

5. Train and implement those steps—Train the appropriate employees in the procedure.

As an example, let us say that you own a service company. Your employees perform their work in homes and offices, and you frequently receive complaints that your employees are tracking dirt and debris into the customer’s facility. Rather than accept these complaints as inevitable, you can identify the cause and possible solutions, such as removing their shoes, placing a mat at the entrance to clean their shoes, or wear disposable booties.

This is a simple example, and certainly the solution to many bottlenecks is more complex. But if we identify the actions that will lead to desired results and make those actions a part of our company’s operating procedures, we can eliminate most bottlenecks. Different actions lead to different results.

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