Solution Saturday: How to Convince the Older Generation to Change

The value of not changing is things stay the same. But, “If change is happening on the outside faster than on the inside, the end is in sight.” Jack Welch

The question:

I was asked at a recent speaking engagement in Chicago, “How can I convince the previous generation to change?”

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The person asking the question represents the third generation in a family owned business. She is concerned about the danger of staying the same in a changing world.

Her elders are concerned about losing the past by choosing an untested future.

Fear of change:

Change means something is going away. The present, in it’s current state, will cease to exist. Additionally, the “not yet” aspect of change disquiets.

The combination of  “going away” and “not yet” is powerful incentive to maintain the status quo.

How to convince the older generation to change:

  1. Respect that people must convince themselves to change. Pressure invites resistance.
  2. Explore the value of not changing. Why is it important not to change?
  3. Create reasons to change. Why is the present path unacceptable? Reasons must be meaningful to them. People change for their reasons, not yours.
  4. Don’t demonize the present. The previous generation gave themselves to build the present, don’t insult them. You can’t antagonize and influence at the same time.
  5. Appeal to their values. Take their perspective before pushing yours.
  6. Change in small ways that don’t “bet the farm.” Run a pilot program.
  7. Ask the previous generation for advice. Make them feel heard.
  8. Speak to the heart, use facts and figures to validate not convince.
  9. Don’t ask the previous generation to change. Ask them to support you as you lead change.
  10. Temper your enthusiasm. Passion may feel overwhelming to older people.

Bonus: Ask, “What can you teach me about leading change?

How might leaders convince the older generation to change?