The Elephant Rider Path Change

When leaders think about a change they want to make in their organisations (or their own personal desire for change, frankly) they often feel people resist change, don’t like change or feel that change is hard. Not true!

Change that people want is possible. The iPhone 7 was just announced and there are already pre-orders globally and there will probably be queues (line ups) at stores when it hits retail shelves. Smartphones have been a huge change, certainly from my aunt and uncle’s party line crank phone, and each edition that is announced is received with open arms. Technology is a huge change and people clamour for it!

Who reading this article has children? Was that a change? Obviously a huge change – one that often starts with sickness and stretch marks and soon turns into exhaustion, worry, selflessness, expense, mess and defiance (and that only gets you to the terrible 2s)!

Why are these changes embraced? Because we choose them. We want them.

So how do you get your team members to want the change you want? As the Heath brothers write in their book Switch, every successful change has an emotional (Elephant) side, a rational (Rider) and clear way (Path).

Most leaders address the Rider in any change initiative – they talk to the rational components of change.

Most leaders struggle with engaging the Elephant – the emotional, intuitive side. A rider can control an Elephant for only so long. If the Elephant wants to go in a different direction, it will, despite the Rider’s best efforts. What do you want people to feel (positively) after change? Can you reduce the change to small parts rather than one big thing so you don’t spook the Elephant?

The Path needs to be very clear. If the change is to get people to eat healthier – this is too general or vague. A research study was conducted that found success in reducing peoples’ saturated fat intake by saying ‘drink 1% or low fat milk’ rather than 2%. No need to change their consumption behaviour, only to change 1 thing, their purchase behaviour to less fat.

What could you do to make the Path clearer for your teams? What could you do to influence the Elephant?