Who are you smiling at?

Another guest post from our exuberant change guru Phil Buckley, Director HR, Global Commercial, Kraft Foods/Cadbury.

I’ve played the ‘hello’ game for at least 10 years. I play it in my home city, Toronto, and most international places I visit. It’s easy to do, can be played in any language, and regardless of location, is always fun.

Here’s how it works: Whenever I walk past someone I don’t know at the office or in a manufacturing site, I say a cheery ‘hello’ and give them a beaming smile. The reactions I receive are varied but typically fall into four categories: (1) returned cheery hello and smile (2) minimal acknowledgement of the greeting (not necessarily accompanied by a smile) (3) no expression at all, or (4) a frown.

There’s pretty much an even distribution across all four responses. What I find most fascinating is that no matter how much experience I bank with the ‘hello’ game, my ability to predict the response I’m about to receive remains sporadic at best (this is also true with the recreational version of the game I play when I run – I hope it’s got nothing to do with the shorts…).

I think this relationship also applies to change management. We can’t predict the responses an employee, a team or an entire organization will have if we don’t know the people. We can, however, work diligently to understand them – where they come from, where they are now, and where they need to go. Then, and only then, can we help create stimuli that inspires responses aligned with their (and our) desired destinations.