I’m not a gym rat but I do have a membership that I use a couple of times a week. And if you’ve ever been to the gym in January, you know the scene. It gets busy. Really busy.
Of course, when I go to the gym, I typically have headphones on, trying my best to focus on what I’m doing and not embarrass myself. So while I may not recognize a lot of faces there, I do notice that the equipment I use becomes easier and easier to access as January becomes February and February becomes March, April and beyond.
For those considering big changes this year that will impact their employees, that example has some wisdom for all of us to remember: change don’t come easy.
Resolutions and change
I’ve never been a big New Year resolution guy. I’ve rarely made changes prompted by an arbitrary date. Job changes always seem to come mid-year, I started my first blog in the middle of 2006, and my energy level is always a bit lower when the days are so much shorter.
Still, many people do. According to an article in Time magazine last year, the chances of you making a resolution this time of year is a coin flip:
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About half of all American adults (48%, according to a Marist poll taken in December) say they are at least somewhat likely to make a New Year’s resolution this year. Their top vows: to lose weight (19%), quit smoking (12%) and exercise more (10%). Sound familiar?
The Marist poll also found that while 65% of people who made a resolution in 2008 kept their promise for at least part of the year, 35% never even made it out of the gate. Indeed, when you wake bleary-eyed on the first day of a new year — or decade — resolutions to “cut back” and “moderate” seem both an excellent idea and an impossibly hazy dream.”
Of course, most of us know that many resolutions are not kept for any meaningful amount of time (if at all). Yet, we still do it.
And while resolutions might be one of those quiet lies we tell ourselves to keep the feeling that we’re moving forward, it carries a critical lesson for change initiatives in companies.
Going slow, being realistic, and adding accountability
New habits, routines and changes are part of growing as a business. Foisting that mindlessly on employees is a recipe for disaster. So how can you apply the secrets of a successful New Year resolution to your business?
- Go slow – Giving yourself plenty of time to get into the habit is important to the success of your resolution, and to any business initiative you’re looking at accomplishing. It took several months of going to the gym before it felt like part of my routine. Now, like when I’m on vacation or traveling, it feels weird not to have that routine. That’s what it should feel like.
- Be realistic – Sometimes we force things because we can or are trying too hard. Going from not working out at all to five days a week is unrealistic. Going from a paper system to a digital system in your company can be similarly jarring. Be prepared for it, be realistic when it comes to timelines and be ready to adjust expectations.
- Add accountability – One of the toughest parts about change is making sure it happens. Even in spite of how difficult change can be, and how we must acknowledge that difficulty, you have to be ready to hold people accountable for their actions. If someone isn’t making the effort to change or is dropping the ball, the time to crack down on that is now, not later.
Most importantly, change is a long-term function of any organization. Even if employees don’t bite on a new procedure, a new piece of technology, or a new boss the first day, week or month doesn’t mean it won’t eventually come. If you’re playing for keeps (and for keeping meaningful change on the table), you’ll take the steps that the people behind successful New Year resolutions take.