Change: Starting from the Top

Sometimes being a manager means managing through change.

It’s a tale as old as time: Companies complain of employee resistance to change and innovation. And every once in a while, it’s because staff members are afraid of failing when they do something differently than they normally would. But more often than not, resistance to change starts with the superiors and managers at an organization. If top management doesn’t buy into the idea of implementing change, then there is little chance change will occur.

Take Company A, for example. I’ve had the pleasure of doing business with this company for years, and lately, it has attempted to put a new sales technique into practice. For months, I attempted to contact Company A so I could schedule its staff training, but management was unable to set aside the time for a training session. Its audit scores were beginning to suffer, and it no longer was meeting the same standards its competitors were achieving.

Ultimately, the corporate office got involved, and everyone at Company A found themselves in the unenviable position of being “under the gun.” Training finally was penciled in; coaching began to happen; and yet, the overall organizational attitude did not change. The reason was that management still wanted to get by with what they’d always done. To their thinking, “the devil they knew was better than the angel they didn’t.” And I could spot the spoilsports from a mile away: They were always the last ones to arrive to a scheduled training seminar and the first ones out the door. Invariably, these were also the same people who gave various excuses as to why new skills couldn’t be applied.

So how do you become the kind of manager who inspires change and motivates growth? Here are some tips you can use to ensure the right kind of attitude is trickling down to your team:

  • Do as you say. It’s essential that management lead by example. Get your staff onboard with your new standards by complying with them yourself. I often see team leaders proclaim how beautifully a new system or procedure applies to their organization without employing it themselves. But actions speak louder than words, and if your team sees you falling back on old habits, they’ll question your faith in the organizational changes. Show your staff that you’re working toward the same goals they are, and they’ll be stimulated to follow in your footsteps.
  • Get invested. Involve yourself in any coaching that your team partakes in by celebrating their successes as they meet their new goals and giving them direction when their performance lags. Don’t wait until your team members buckle under the pressure or your customers complain about your service to manage your staff’s adherence to new rules. Take over the reins in order to dictate the manner in which change will be realized.
  • Take the pulse. Any amendment to protocol should come hand in hand with two-way communication. Really listen to any feedback your staff has to offer about the new work practices. And to take things one step further, get your team involved in generating ideas about implementing the latest standards.
  • Make things fun. Incentives, games, and contests are a great way to accelerate change and generate some healthy competition among staff members. Give your team a fun reason to accomplish their goals.
  • Don’t give up. Changes come with growing pains, but if you’re determined to make change happen, be patient with the process and remain optimistic in your attitude. Always be open to altering your method of encouraging learning and growth if you don’t see the evolution you hoped for.

Be the change that you wish to see in your organization by putting in the effort to manage innovation.

Kevin James Saunders is a trainer and the Chief Company Culture Director for Oculus Training, a British Columbia-based corporate training and mystery shopping company offering sales management, reservations, sensitivity, and customer service training programs for a variety of service-based industries throughout Canada, the U.S., and the world. For more information, call 888.OCULUS4 or visit You also can connect with Oculus on Twitter @oculustraining, via e-mail at or visit it on Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube.