Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

How to manage the eight ‘change personalities’ at work

After working with leaders for years, Kevin Eikenberry has noted eight "change personalities" – almost like characters in a book or movie – that show up time and time again. On his blog, he invites you to determine which personality you are but also how to manage colleagues given their own styles:

  • The Eager Beaver: This person relishes change, assuming when they hear the word “improvement” it truly will be better. They believe there is no time like the present for change. Since their initial resistance to change initiatives will be low, they can help you build momentum for the effort. Your challenge is to equip them to be change agents and bring others on board.
     
  • The Evangelist: This individual believes strongly in change and sets out to win others over with personal passion and vision of the benefits ahead. “Their intentions are good, but sometimes people see them as annoying and their efforts are discounted or even ignored,” he warns. So encourage the Evangelist to be more patient with others and to ask questions of those with less enthusiasm to understand their concerns rather than just talk louder and louder.
     
  • The High-Pressure Salesman: He calls this person a cousin to the Evangelist, also wanting others to buy into the change, but is more relentless, incapable of comprehending why anyone wouldn’t. “Counsel them not to push, but to engage others and show them why they love and are excited about the change. The pressure is reduced the minute the sales pitch becomes a true conversation,” he says.
     
  • The Patient Pacifist: These folks want to see how the change is working before climbing on board. They may ask lots of people their opinion, not necessarily sharing their own. They aren’t good with conflict and don’t want to rock the boat. You need to be equally patient with them, keeping them informed and offering examples of successes. Usually they will sign on to the change.
     
  • The Fact Lover: This person pursues all the facts, pro and con. “Since they see the world in a relatively black-and-white way, they believe that once they have decided (proven) that the change is a good idea, that everyone else should see what they see and join in with them. If the Evangelist trades in emotion, the Fact Lover trades in logic. Both can be strengths, but the Fact Lover overuses the logic, just like the Evangelist overemphasizes the emotion involved in the change,” he notes. With them, obviously you want to present as much information as possible, answering questions and letting them share what they learn with others.
     
  • The History Professor: This individual loves to compare this effort with similar changes in the past, good or bad. They believe that experience is the best – perhaps only – lens from which to view current change initiatives. With them, you hear chestnuts like “we tried this once” or “this reminds me of when.” Mr. Eikenberry recommends letting them share their experience and providing focus with a question like, “What can we learn from the past to get us better results this time?”
     
  • The Alarmist: This person figures the sky is falling and conjures up a multitude of negative possibilities that the change might usher in. “While it is important to consider the ramifications of a change, the Alarmist may become so focused on their worry and worst-case scenarios that they begin to see those possibilities as the reality,” Mr. Eikenberry writes. Keep listening, since they may raise something you are overlooking and can tackle before it becomes a problem. Don’t dismiss them as overreacting. If you can help them systematically to see beyond their worries, they can become staunch believers in the effort.
     
  • The Ostrich: This individual, living in the comfort zone of the present, tries to deny or avoid the change. If they do change, they will be among the last. Be patient but firm with the Ostrich, helping them to see the change is real and will happen, head in the sand or not.

Use those eight personalities – evaluating your reactions and that of others – the next time your work unit faces change.

2. Lessons from Michelangelo

Story continues below advertisement

Michelangelo wasn't a one-trick pony, innovation specialist Saul Kaplan notes. He was an accomplished sculptor, painter, architect and poet. And when he was celebrating his 87th birthday, he offered this immortal advice: "Ancora Imparo: Yet I am learning."

Mr. Kaplan, on the Innovation Excellence blog, says "Michelangelo gave us incredible works of art but he also gave us the most important innovation insight and lesson. In a rapidly changing world, learning and reinvention are the most important life skills. Not just when we're young but throughout our lives. Learning curve matters above all else. Michelangelo is my new innovation hero and Ancora Imparo is my new innovation mantra."

He says innovators thrive on the steepest part of the learning curve – where the changing rate of learning is the greatest. More importantly, the best innovators, such as Michelangelo, don't rest when things get better and the learning curve smooths out. They find another learning curve to climb aboard – something else challenging to throw themselves into. Should they sacrifice learning for money, they usually end up unhappy.

"Innovators always intuitively know when to leap from one learning curve to the next. They get restless when any curve starts to flatten out. Instead of enjoying the flat part of the curve where it takes less effort to produce more output, innovators get bored and want to find new learning curves where they can benefit from a rapidly changing rate of learning. If the goal for innovators is to get better faster, the only way to accomplish it is to live on the edge where the knowledge flows are the richest. It isn't the most comfortable place to be," he says.

3. Seven questions to guide your reading

Top CEOs and other successful people often are readers. But translator Sheba Leung says too often we read ineffectively, spending time absorbing as much information as we can in a short time without understanding the bigger picture and taking away useful learning. Here are seven questions she suggests asking to guide your reading:

  • If I can get only three things from the book, what are they? How will I apply them in daily life?
     
  • What are the arguments or suggestions made by the author?
     
  • What problems does the writer attempt to solve?
     
  • What strategies does the author use to convey the key ideas in the book?
     
  • What do I know about the topic the book covers? How is what the book says different from what I know?
     
  • Are there any particular things I do not understand in the book? “Skipping those parts is not the best solution,” she adds, as it would limit your horizons. “Instead, delving into the unfamiliar parts or opposite ideas is the best way to take ourselves to another level.”
     
  • Which parts of the book do I like or dislike? And why?

4. Quick Hits

Story continues below advertisement

  • Cross-pollination can be the key to understanding and innovation. Consultant Michael Kerr suggests holding job shadowing days in which employees follow somebody from a completely different department and where feasible job-swap days in which people take over a colleague’s duties for a day.
     
  • As tech dominates our lives, it’s important to reduce the burden of strain and fatigue on our eyes. Behavioural designer Nir Eyal recommends every 20 minutes staring at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
     
  • If you’re using a precedent as a problem-solving guideline, consultant Wally Bock advises you to consider how the past and present situations are both alike and different.
     
  • Firms that delegated more power from their central headquarters to local plant managers prior to the recession of the past decade outperformed more centralized counterparts in the sectors that were hardest hit in the subsequent crisis, research found. The value of local information and urgent actions increased in that period and decentralization helped on those factors.
     
  • Excel will take fonts in half-points, which can make a critical difference in spreadsheet work. Type them directly into the size box. If you type another fractional size like 10.4 it will round to the nearest half-point.
Video: Talking Management: How learning at work has changed over the past decade (Special to Globe and Mail Update)
Report an error
About the Author
Management columnist

Harvey Schachter is a Kingston, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online column, Power Points. More

Comments

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨