Countering Catastrophic Team Expectations

"Oh no, this will never work!" team members are heard to exclaim when changes are introduced. Teams who believe that new strategies, processes and procedures are doomed to failure are usually right. The phenomenon of "self-fulfilling prophesy" will come into play and the team will either deliberately, or inadvertently sabotage changes that they believe are unworkable.

Savvy team leaders will anticipate team resistance to change, and involve the team in planning modifications before their implementation. This strategy is grounded in the fact that any significant change disrupts the team's security. "I know how to do my job right now, but I am not sure I can learn the new way of doing things", is the unspoken thought on everyone's mind. Instead of facing this concern, team members will project their insecurities on the change itself, finding every excuse not to integrate the change into their current routines.

To counter these catastrophic expectations, and prevent problematic reactions, leaders can prepare the team for change in the following ways:

  • Involve the team in initial planning, and consult genuinely with team members as to how current practices and protocols can be improved.
  • Announce new outcome expectations and allow the team to brainstorm how the new demands might be met.
  • Ask the team to participate in a pilot project to test new approaches before making them permanent.
  • Provide the team with the needed training, coaching and mentoring to prepare them to meet the challenges posed by proposed changes.
  • Facilitate ongoing discussion and problem-solving sessions to address frustrations with new protocols as they arise.
  • Conduct individual development sessions with select team members who persist in attempting to negatively influence implementation of change.
  • Identify success benchmarks and reward the team as each benchmark is achieved.

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