What do you dread at work? Maybe it’s filling out expense reports. Making a cold call to a new lead. Giving a performance review to your employee Chester, who’s prone to tearing up at the first hint of negative feedback. Whatever it is, you avoid it. You procrastinate. You check Google News, you check your fantasy football stats. You check Google News again.
There’s a way out, though. Let me show you how it works in the context of housecleaning, which is something that I absolutely dread. It’s called the 5-Minute Rescue, and it was proposed by an online housecleaning guru called the "Fly Lady." You set a kitchen timer to 5 minutes. Then you rush to the dirtiest room in your house—the one you’d never let a guest see—and, as the timer ticks down, you start clearing a path, and when the timer finally buzzes, you can stop with a clear conscience. Doesn’t sound so bad, does it? But the trick, of course, is that you won’t stop, because by then, you’ll have some momentum going, you’ll have the satisfaction of seeing some progress, and you’ll keep trucking. Getting started is always harder than staying going.
The strategy here is universal. Any time change feels daunting, we’ll try to dodge it. It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about personal change or organizational change or societal change. In situations like this, where the change feels too big, we’ve got to shrink it, so it feels more manageable.
Ken Blanchard understood this principle. He said most managers bottle up their feedback until something goes wrong. He called it seagull management—they fly in, make a lot of noise, dump on everyone, and fly out. So he challenged managers to stop storing up their comments and proposed a specific way to shrink the change: He said, Concentrate on catching your employees doing something right—and then reinforce it with immediate, specific praise. He called it One-Minute Praisings.
If you’re changing something at work and people are having the Dread Reaction—if they’re procrastinating and sidestepping things, chances are you need to shrink the change.