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Willing: Are your people encouraged and motivated to engage with change?


noun. preference, inclination or liking for an act or response.

Verb. to be motivated or eager (i.e. to do something)

When people understand and start to prepare or ready themselves for change, they begin the journey to accepting the change. People will decide how they feel about the change based on the information available and that will define their response to it. The first step to building willingness is to accept the nature and intent of the change. This requires attention (and time) from their leaders to articulate how the changes will affect the culture, behaviours and expectations of the people in the organisation.

Once people have this clarity, the second step is for leaders to start encouraging people to work towards change. To do this, leaders need to be asking, ‘What support from me do people need for change to be adopted and embedded?’ so that people show an inclination towards and show their support for the change goals. A critical tool in this transition is visualising the future state and the direct line of sight and alignment with the values.

The third step is to create a ‘pull’ for the change and for people to take opportunities and initiative to influence and engage as participants in change. As people become more comfortable with how things will look and feel after transition, their level of willingness may increase, progressing from resistance to tolerance to peer influencing to advocacy and even to cheerleader.

However, it’s not realistic to expect that all people will respond in the same way – or at the same time. As well as communicating all the positive aspects and outcomes, we also need to answer the question of ‘What do we need to hold on to?’ and allow a conversation about what scares people about the new. Helping people let go of the familiar (and the associated fear) creates an emotional capacity for adjusting to change and moving ahead to what’s next.

In summary, here are our top tips for encouraging willingness:

  • Articulate benefits to individuals and be clear about what will change and what won’t

  • Encourage participation by communicating positive key messages about what the future organisation will be like and feel like

  • Build an eagerness, excitement and anticipation for the change through peer influencing networks and sharing positive experiences

  • Remove barriers to change, anticipate and pre-empt likely resistance and take action to address the sources and root causes.

Some resistance is normal and to be expected. Resistance can be a good indication that people are engaged and what they have to say can be very helpful, pointing out unforeseen issues which, once resolved, increase openness and receptivity to new ways of working.

Identifying willingness is also beneficial to an organisation as people who demonstrate a willingness to learn and adapt are typically searching for new opportunities to stay current, work innovatively, achieve goals and complete more challenging tasks. These will be your employees and leaders of your future organisation.

If you need support with enabling your people to be ready, willing and able for your business change programme please contact us.


About Marlowe

At Marlowe we partner with you and your organisation to deliver large scale, complex transformation and change. We deliver business change solutions, change capability, assurance, training, leadership effectiveness and cultural change.

Our focus is on your people to ensure your change is delivered practically, successfully and sustainably.

Please contact us if you would like to know more about delivering exceptional business change.

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