ATD Blog

Go Slow to Go Fast?

Thursday, April 8, 2021

It’s human nature to resist change. We are neurobiologically afraid of it, even when it’s something we want. To mitigate working against human nature and the uncertainty, fear, and risk that change triggers, here is a simple solution to make change work for you.

Success with any change initiative requires an understanding of how people respond to change. Don’t kid yourself that your employees are on board just because of what they say. Watch what they do or don’t do instead.

Sometimes, when you are leading a change, you can easily get your team engaged and involved. However, sometimes you may have trouble starting the change and keeping it on track, which could undermine the team’s progress and your confidence. It’s easy to get so involved in leading a change that you miss subtle clues that your employees are not on board. You can’t afford to not know how to fix this.

As a manager, it’s your duty to identify any underlying resistance that inhibits employee behaviors to support the change. This will often look like they are just “going through the motions.” Yes, they are cooperating, but the results won’t show much progress. When this happens, it may indicate a different approach is needed—one that will bring them along at their pace.

All leaders are tasked with change initiatives as part of their jobs. We usually don’t give that much thought until we can’t get the full range of commitment to the change from our employees. Then it takes a toll. Change requires the trifecta of commitment: the head, the hands, and the heart. Ignoring this means you’ll become a part of the 70 percent change failure club with a lot of other leaders.

This statistic is high because there is a nuance to a successful change. Change is about gaining access to people’s own internal motivations. When we achieve that, the process is joyous, productive, and sustainable. Employees take ownership because they feel like it’s their change, because it is.


So, if you’ve ever wondered what you are missing, you’ll be surprised to learn that the solution is simple. Regardless of your style or level of experience, you can easily use a little technique I call the teeter-totter.

It’s the same idea as silence being golden. When you ask a question and wait for a response, the pressure to break the silence is instinctual. The participants automatically start talking and engaging. They take the lead. You have engaged their head, hands, and heart.

I call this the teeter-totter technique because of the either-or response. You are either up or down on a teeter-totter. When you’re up there leading the change, participants are forced to sit down at the bottom, passively going along for the ride. But when you know your role is to lead the change, you can do so from the down position, allowing them to take the lead. In the absence of you taking charge of everything, there is a void and they now have a role to fill.


When you see you are not getting the results of full commitment, consider trying the teeter-totter technique. You don’t even have to be that good at it to get a good result. The technique does the work. Just start by asking open-ended questions like “What do you think is important about this project that I may have overlooked?” or “What steps are working and not working?” This puts you at the bottom, supporting while inviting them up to the top to answer the question. This starts momentum because you’ve put them up in the seat to be involved and engaged. You’ve created the conditions for change to happen with the employees, not to the employees. This is how you hit the trifecta of change.

So, if you find yourself on the brink of joining the 70 percent change failure club, you are probably only engaging the head and hands. Slow down, think about human nature, and ask yourself if you have engaged the heart.

Because, when it comes to people, human nature will always win over conventional management methods. And because of all its elegance and simplicity, sometimes slower is actually faster.

About the Author

Sally Klauss, CPTD, is an accomplished learning and development professional with over 25 years of experience in performance management, training and development, instructional design, and leadership coaching.

With a specialty in performance management, her leadership courses leverage the effectiveness of coaching tools and techniques over the traditional management models. She teaches online and on ground at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Ms. Klauss has a master’s degree in Business Administration, a bachelor’s degree in Management, and holds the PCC credential from International Coach Federation. She is active in her volunteer work focusing on coaching new and emerging leaders with specific emphasis on underserved populations.