NFL and Us: Free Agency for All!

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Peyton Manning, my beloved CEO of the National Football League, is no longer an Indianapolis Colt.  The deal became final – he is now a Denver Bronco.  Talk about change. Peyton put Indianapolis on the map! They owe the new stadium to him. He could have run for office! Change is inevitable for all of us, and Peyton did it with style and respect:  he had one-to-one meetings with coaches and owners of various teams, and worked out for them.  He put on a brave face and did a news conference with the Colts’ owner who dumped him, making sure his arm was around Irsay’s shoulder.  We Americans are having our own Free Agency, since we are changing jobs in unprecedented numbers.

With the national unemployment rate at 9% it’s hard to believe that anyone is willingly changing jobs. However, a recent survey finds that a whopping 84% of employees are planning on searching for a new job in 2012.  That compares to 60% two years ago.  More than 1000 people in the US and Canada were surveyed, and only 5% said they were planning to stay in their current jobs.  But this is actually hopeful.  Last year, 34% of workers who changed jobs in the previous 12 months did so because they had been laid off or fired, but now just 22% of workers say that is the case, down 12 points in one year.  Figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics released this summer showed that record numbers of people were quitting their jobs. According to that data, almost two million Americans quit their jobs voluntarily in May, up 35 percent from January 2010.

I always teach that change is natural and good, but nothing is as upsetting to your people as change. And nothing is as important to the survival of your organization as change!  Managing change means managing people’s fear and it can be managed if done right.  People naturally resist a change because of a fear of the unknown or an expectation of loss.  As a leader, you need to address the resistance from two aspects: how they perceive the change and how well they are equipped to deal with the change. Here are some action steps:

  1. Describe the change for the employee as early as you can, using as much detail as you can.
  2. Provide updates as things become more clear.  People will excuse a multitude of sins if they are kept “in” on things.
  3. Make it safe for the employee to describe their reasons for resisting the change.
  4. Understand their reluctance and do your best to explain why this has to happen.
  5. Don’t waste your time hoping people will be more accepting of the change.  (“Hope” is a terrible place from which to operate.)  Instead, make sure to open safe channels of communication with your employees, and communicate with them more than ever.

After all, the change you face may be a blessing in the future. Who knows? Peyton won only one Super Bowl with the Colts.  Many are predicting he could win more than one with the Broncos.  We shall see.

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