How do you get everyone on board?
How do you deal with people reluctant to change?August 02, 2023 - 851 words - 5 mins Found a typo? Edit me
Last week, I was at the WeAreDevelopers World Congress, the biggest conference I’ve been giving a tech talk.
With more than 12k attendees, 300 speakers, and ~10 tracks in parallel, I was invited to give not one but two talks. One is about my experience with Extreme Programming and the profound benefits of embracing change in your work and life.
I especially enjoyed the audience engagement and feedback they gave me after each talk. In particular, a question I had faced many times during my career: “How do you deal with people reluctant to change?”
This is one of the most complex topics affecting any team, regardless of their profession. But, especially in our constantly changing software industry, if you are reluctant to embrace change, you will do more harm than good to your team, career, and yourself.
As stated in Peopleware, “our software profession is less about computers and more about humans and their interactions”. This is usually the root problem for people; it’s a human problem first.
To become truly agile, you must have a good foundation of trust among your peers. Without trust, there is no team, and the primary responsibility of a good leader is to help create a trusted environment without fear of healthy conflicts. Everyone feels they can speak and express freely in a safe environment.
A safe environment means you don’t need to carry on armor the whole day to protect yourself from others, so you will have more energy to drive excellence in your workplace.
But still, despite your effort to create a trustable and safe environment, you might encounter people reluctant to change. For those, you might need to try different approaches. How can you help create trust among everyone?
Don’t be afraid of failure; instead, think that everything you do is an experiment from which you will learn something. And anything that brings you closer to a better state is better than nothing.
The key here is to find a way to connect with people by understanding how they understand their potential so you can empower them and help them grow.
Grant time for reading
1:1 meetings are ideal for establishing personal connections with your peers. However, you might feel that the situation requires an additional push, especially if you have someone who doesn’t like to speak about themselves, and it is hard to know what they think about what’s happening.
Here is an idea you could try:
- Give them a book containing ideas or knowledge that could benefit the whole.
- Allow reading this book during work time – eg: on Fridays after lunch. This is a company investment for the development of your team.
- The book should be read in 3-4 hours – or a couple of Fridays, depending on the number of pages.
- Don’t wait until the book is finished to talk about it. Follow the progress.
- You will have great topics to discuss during your next 1:1.
You could use any book for this exercise
Any book would be fine. Still, if you are looking for great examples, these are my favourite three to start thriving a conversation:
- Who moved my cheese? is a metaphor of the different attitudes that people adopt as part of their identity in life when they have to confront any change.
- Extreme Programming Explained contains a compilation of values, principles, and practices highly related to the human touch in our software industry. Focusing on the team aspect, collaboration with your peers, and creating a sense of mastery and purpose in our craft.
- Start with Why addresses the importance of starting with “Why?” in order to define a purpose for anything we do.
Experiment with any book, timeframe, person, or group to create a shared understanding of the team’s foundational values and motivations. The goal is to engage in active knowledge-sharing while cultivating a team that feels they belong, fostering passion at work. This will help create trust, and you can start building on top of it.
If you are looking for books to help scale up your leadership skills, there you go: “Great Leadership”.
You cannot force people to change. On the contrary, the more you try to force it, the harder they will make it for you. Instead, focus on understanding them by acknowledging what they feel and thinking about what they do to create a common ground of understanding each other.
Photos from me at WeAreDevelopers World Congress, Berlin 2023.