Understanding who needs what support in a change environment.

People require support, do we make sure we support the right people in the right way?

SCENARIO: Who needs more support in crossing the river?

Imagine a land divided by a river where people have historically always lived on the southern bank. Until a couple of decades ago, some people moved to the northern bank and found the conditions there are significantly better for cooperation, equality, productivity, health and happiness. As a result, part of the population has moved north, many remain in the south, but to stay united they may need to cross the river. As a result of the last two decades, we can now identify four groups of people.

Group 1: those who crossed the river and continued life on the north bank. Their past far side has become their current near side and vice versa. They may still cross the river south on occasion.

Group 2: those who were born on the north bank. They only know the north side as their near side and have never experienced the south bank. They know of the south bank through stories, but never cross the river.

Group 3: those who have yet to cross the river, but will need to, to remain relevant and part of the community. They have seen the north side across the water, they have heard loads of stories, but crossing the river is daunting. Their current far side is to become their future near side.

Group 4: those who will die on the south side. They have decided crossing the river is not worth the effort, they rather stay on the south side and sit out their years there. Far side or near side is irrelevant as they never really look across the river.

Which group needs to most support to change?

People with the intention to achieve the goal, but who are farthest away from the goal, require the most support.

Every group needs support in some way, shape or form, but in this scenario, it is Group 3 who need the most support. They still need to cross the river: a daunting feat. Most of those who could cross on their own steam have already done so and are all part of Group 1. Group 2 never needed to cross; they were born on the north bank. Group 4 will never cross and may need some support in learning to live alone on the south bank.

REALITY: Who needs more support in going though change?

Now let’s look how we do this in our businesses and industries. Who do we give the most support? Funnily enough we give all the support to those people already on the north bank, delaying the possibility to cross for many people on the south bank. This is what happens, perhaps not in your firm or business, but macro in our communities.

In business we often support those people who have already achieved the goal.

We give Group 2 a soap box to yell as loudly as they can across the river to those still on the south bank. They ‘encourage’ the southerners to cross the river, with a ‘just do it’ approach. Group 2 speak their own language, the message they send is therefore often not understood. Born on the north bank they are detached from the south bank. The only connection they have is through Group 1. Unfortunately, Group 1 has been too busy setting up shop on the north bank, for them to truly share their history with Group 2. As a result, Group 2 have grown up in their own world and, understandably, show little understanding for the people on the south bank. They cannot imagine the daunting cross ahead of Group 3, as they have never made the cross themselves. Group 1 support them in this quest, and often gets on the soap box with them.

Group 3 know they need to make the cross, but there are two things keeping them back. Firstly, the cross itself; it may be dangerous and they may not know how to cross. Secondly, the image of the north bank with people on soap boxes yelling at others is not very appealing, it is reducing their desire to cross the river.

Group 4 tries to ignore everything that is happening and is aiming to reach retirement before any of this affects them.

Let’s look at getting those people from the south bank over to the north bank in 2023. How about the people on the north bank combine their efforts in working with Group 3 to bring them across? This means quite a few may have to cross the river and guide members of Group 3 across the river. The messaging needs to be different, everyone north of the river is or becomes a northerner, whether you were born there or not. Let’s get rid of the soap boxes, which will eliminate Group 3’s second hesitation for crossing. If we want to truly live in a place based on cooperation, equality, productivity, health and happiness, we need to start by working together, not against each other. Creating groups, creates division, competition, lack of understanding and ultimately an unhealthy environment.

If you want people to change, because it is in everyone’s benefit, don’t just tell them to change, support them through this change. If you can’t support them change, get help.

It is relatively easy to tell others to follow in your footsteps, for some it is easy, for other is is hard. For some people it is irrelevant whether it is easy or hard, as they do not want to follow in your footsteps. Working on desire is the first step to supporting people through change. This desire is fuelled by outlining the benefits of the change, and to be able to do that, you need to truly understand the people you are helping through the change.

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