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5 principles to make change stick

People don’t hate change, they hate how you try to change them. Hayley Baxter examines why leaders struggle to make meaningful change in the workplace, and how to fix it.

If you’ve ever wondered why it’s hard to make a change in your agency, or why innovation and tech adoption seems to lag in the real estate sector, it might be a problem of scale.

Real estate constitutes Australia’s largest market, worth about $7.1 trillion, with the next largest being superannuation at $2.1 trillion.

CoreLogic data shows residential sales this year total $277.8 billion gross value as of July.

It’s also a significant employer in the Australian economy, employing about 350,000 people across the nation, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

MORE THAN HALF OF ALL HOUSEHOLD WEALTH IS HELD IN REAL ESTATE

If that weren’t big enough to contend with, consider this: 53.9 per cent of all household wealth is held in real estate.

Almost every adult will have some involvement with the sector, whether through renting, buying, selling, investing, being employed in real estate, or like myself, employed in an industry that services the real estate sector.

Real estate plays a huge part in Australian life.

The sheer size and value of the industry to the Australian economy, the broad scope of its stakeholders, and the forbidding walls of legislation that define its behaviour can provide huge obstacles to lasting, meaningful change.

But they don’t have to.

The real estate industry’s technology adoption moves at the pace of society at large, but it also somewhat determines the pace of society.

For that reason, if you want to update the way your agency does business or drive the adoption of tech or innovation, you’ve got none of the special advantages of other industries.

To drive change in this environment, you have to understand what lies at the heart of the human relationship to change.

Here’s what you need to know.

PRINCIPLE 1 OF CHANGE: PEOPLE DON’T HATE CHANGE; THEY HATE CHANGE BEING FORCED ON THEM

Motivational speakers, life coaches, personal improvement books, New Year’s resolutions, Pinterest—people are almost always trying to change themselves for the better.

People also move jobs or desks, they change their hair colour or dress style, or they travel because actually, change can be refreshing.

Ditch the idea that people don’t like change.

People just don’t like change being rammed down their throats, or worse: being tricked into agreeing that an idea is good (see principle 2) to carry out a change.

PRINCIPLE 2 OF CHANGE: STOP USING THE WORDS ‘BUY-IN’

Nobody had to buy into what we are now calling ‘the new normal’.

The reason for change was crystal clear: adapt to the conditions wrought by the pandemic or fall apart.

The first problem with the term ‘buy-in’ is it is treated as a checklist item.

Sit your staff down, run them through a presentation of the change you intend to make, and get them to agree to the change. Tick! Buy-in complete.

If you truly believe the change you want to make is a big improvement, stick with your staff all the way through the change.

Come with them on the journey.

PRINCIPLE 3 OF CHANGE: AIM FOR PEOPLE TO ‘GET IT’ RATHER THAN LIKE IT

The second problem with ‘buy-in’ is it implies that staff are supposed to like whatever change is coming.

That’s the wrong approach.

Your staff need to understand why this change is necessary and desirable, and what the future looks like with and without the change.

If the ‘why’ is crystal clear and compelling enough, your staff won’t need to buy into it.

They’ll get it, and that correlates strongly with doing it.

PRINCIPLE 4 OF CHANGE: STOP ASKING PEOPLE TO DO MORE WITH LESS

This one is about resources.

How are you going to help your staff make the change needed without overloading them?

Put another way: if the change effectively means ‘you’re doing more work now, forever’ that’s not change you’re implementing but a workload increase.

For example, asking staff to manage more properties on its own is a noble goal, with a clear and compelling why.

But it has a poor chance of success if your staff aren’t given the resources to achieve it effectively.

Console Cloud’s tagline is ‘do less, make more.’

The idea driving the platform is that we must help businesses generate more revenue by making less work for everyone in the chain of the business—from staff to landlords and even tenants.

Doing less work per task means you’re freeing up capacity for people to achieve the goal of managing more properties.

To return to our example, if you decided that you were going to ask staff to manage more properties, but you resourced them and they used the product as deeply as possible (so you can automate and simplify as much as possible), that picture starts to change.

You’ve resourced your staff so they can do less work to manage a single property, which adds up to significantly less work to manage a portfolio.

Voila! Your staff have the capacity to manage that rent roll you just bought.

PRINCIPLE 5 OF CHANGE: CHANGE GEARS FROM LEADER TO CHEERLEADER

Change often fails at the point when it stops being a vision held by management, and starts being a series of tasks carried out by employees.

Why does this happen?

Assuming you’ve followed the other principles, it’s likely because leaders often think their job is done when they’ve ‘sold’ the change to their staff.

But it’s not.

If you’re the leader of change in your business, it’s time to change gears from leader to cheerleader and support those who are responsible for bringing your ideas to life.

Define your success metrics early, and measure (and celebrate!) these.

Recognising the achievements of those who lean into change also provides context, clarity of vision, and motivation to keep going.

Repeat until success is your new normal.  

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