Communication Empowers Ownership

lead with people Feb 12, 2024
How to Increase the Velocity of Change at Work




Before we jump into things, let me introduce myself. My name is Dennis and I am one of the founders of Speak with People. My role in the company is that of an advisor as we build and grow our business.

As we build and grow a company, I have realized that growth and change can’t be rushed.

Long ago, I stopped making New Year’s resolutions. By now many of you have tried and failed at your New Year’s resolutions (if you even had the courage to make one). Trying to make changes once a year just does not work for me. I would claim that process does not work for anyone if they only try to change once a year.

When a change needs to be made, I find it easier to make that change at the moment I identify it rather than waiting for a time based around a calendar. I tend to focus more on identifying areas where my team, my company, or myself can grow and implement those changes as they are needed. This takes a more regular cadence of reflection. This is important as we will talk about later on.

So then why do so many people make New Year’s resolutions?

The calendar switching is a great trigger to take stock of things. I would say we don’t reflect enough at what is going on around us.

How many times have you been focused on something? Perhaps it was making a puzzle or building a LEGO set and you got stuck. Then someone walks up and does exactly what you have been trying to do for the last half hour!

It helps to step back and look at something when you are not so close to it. Reflection takes many forms but however you do it, to make the changes stick, it needs to be more than a once-a-year thing.

Many of you have likely heard it takes a month to form a new habit. Or perhaps you heard it takes 21 days. Or maybe you heard some people take a week.

In reality the answer will depend. This is backed up by a recent study last year. Inc Magazine goes into the details on the study HERE.

Something like handwashing takes less time than exercise likely due to repetition. Look at sports teams. They repeat drills over and over to make a skill stick.

No matter how long it takes, it always takes more than one moment once a year.




Now that we know habits take time, why can’t we just rush that time? Why not identify the issue and force the change?

Telling people what is wrong might fix the problem in the moment but we want a change that lasts.

Remember that person that walked up and showed you the puzzle piece you were missing? You likely were frustrated they found that so quickly. And if that person is the know-it-all family member, you likely were even more frustrated.

That emotion is how our teams feel as well when we as leaders walk in, tell them to do something differently, and then walk out. Sure, they might do it right then because you said to, but soon enough they will be back to doing what they did previously.

How about just repeating yourself over and over until people change? That doesn’t make the change faster either.

Think back to the movie Inception. If you haven’t seen the movie, it is about putting an idea in someone’s head while they are dreaming that causes them to act differently once they wake up. The problem is the person dreaming needs to think that the idea is their own. There needs to be ownership of the idea.

Ownership is what takes time. Your teams need to own the idea.

Let’s unpack what it means to own the idea and how we get there. Have you ever noticed how leaders seem to repeat themselves all the time? They do that for a few reasons.

Hear the idea.

The first is so everyone hears it from them. I would encourage you, anytime you can hear from your leaders of your company, do it. Get the message straight from the source and then look how your immediate leaders interpret that. So, the first step is to hear the message. Just hearing it does not give ownership but it is where things need to start.

Process the idea.

Once we hear a message or idea, we need time to process it. Sometimes after the first time we hear a message, we just blow it off and say this too shall pass.

When you hear a new idea from a new leader, how many times do you take it as a phase? Hopefully you are not in a job where leaders don’t follow through. I know one time I was in a role where my boss always had a “great idea”. Many times, there was no follow through.

So many great ideas could come out in a single meeting that my team and I got in the habit of noting the ideas and then waiting until we heard it another time. If there was a large gap between the times we heard the idea, then we might wait even longer before we consider acting on it.

As a leader, be sure to communicate to your teams what we are doing by continuing to repeat the vision. Be consistent in your messaging. If you want your teams to reach what you say, the message needs to be clear, consistent, and you need to follow through.

Understand the Idea.

Your team can only own the idea if they understand the why behind it. Explaining the idea is a two-way street. Leaders need to explain their reason behind it but their teams need to ask questions to better understand it. At the end of the day the team either needs to assimilate the leader’s why or create their own why.

Ultimately, we want our teams to move forward because they believe in why the change is happening.

Your team needs to hear the new idea a few times to process it. Over that time of hearing it, they can think about it, process it, understand it, and finally own it.




So why does change take time?

Let's recap:

  • We are not well practiced at self-evaluation because we don’t exercise that skill enough.
  • We haven’t heard the idea enough for it to take hold. You need more reps (analogy for the workout world).
  • We as leaders have not been consistent in our message.
  • We as leaders have not followed through with our part.
  • Our teams are not in the practice of processing ideas because we don’t ask them to process and expect them to blindly follow us.
  • Our teams don’t understand the why behind a change.
  • Our teams have not assimilated our why or created their own why.
  • Lastly, no one likes to be wrong.

How you go about change is important. The team needs to be on the path with you. If you want the change to go faster, involve your team earlier. Doing that will help them create their own why or be part of the why developed by the team.

Early involvement will also increase the processing time. Ultimately, it will allow the change to occur over time and they won’t be wrong; they will be a part of the getting to what’s right. Everyone wants to win and this allows that to be a possibility.

So, take a look at your patterns. Make sure you are practicing things more than once a year. And ultimately expect for things to take time. Give yourself and your teams the space to make the change. If it needs to go more quickly, increase the reps and involve the team earlier. Then you will have a shot at increasing the velocity of the change.


By Dennis Neel - Senior Executive, Fortune 500 Company

Dennis is a cofounder and advisor for Speak with People. He takes a unique, entrepreneurial approach in leading his teams while strategically building partnerships with customers and mentoring young talent.