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Strategies for Corporate Change: Insights from Gender Transition

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In general people usually opt for familiarity over change. Think how you feel when an app, or website suddenly changes their layout, all the tabs have moved and, at least initially, navigating is just that much harder. I’m sure most of us have experienced the frustration of this.

Yet as we know, corporate organisations and companies have to make changes to stay ahead of competition, often at the risk of alienating their staff and clients. So how can these imperative changes be managed, keeping everyone on board and bringing them along for the ride willingly?

The strategy I implemented to do just this while making what could be considered one of the biggest fundamental changes a person can make, gender transition, took advantage of a very natural human trait.

Which is that in fact, despite all the hate and problems in this world, at some level most people want to please!

I took advantage of this trait, using it to guide as best as I could, the thoughts and feelings of those around me to go in the direction I wanted them to, to help things go smoothly.

In my case, the example I had in my head was if a person was expecting a baby. If they told someone about their pregnancy, but that person didn’t know the details behind it – whether this was welcome news, perhaps they had been trying for a baby for years, or bad news, perhaps they were married and had been unfaithful – then it would be natural for the person to hesitate, and wait for cues before deciding how to respond. Without knowing there’s practically no one who would just decide themselves whether to say ‘Congrats’, or ‘Oh no, what are you going to do?’. They would first try and figure out how that person feels about their news, so they could respond accordingly.

This is the concept I used to encourage my news to be met with the response I hoped for.

With everyone I came out to, before I even so much as broached the actual topic, I made sure they already knew that the news I was telling them was ‘good’ news. I literally said, “I have news for you, it’s good news. For me anyway!

I added ‘For me anyway’ to also manage their expectations. After all I didn’t want anyone disappointed while they then expectantly waited for me to announce I’d won the lottery and, of course, was about to share half my winnings with them.

However imagine if I was worried about how people would react, and went into this thinking I have news that’s a little odd. That’s exactly how the news would have been perceived. I would have been onto a loser right away.

Did it work? Absolutely! Given there is a percentage of the population that are not trans allies, and the fact that I had to give my news to hundreds of people, I was expecting statistically to have at least one or two bad reactions, minimum! Around one to two hundred of the people I needed to tell were clients of mine, so weren’t close friends, didn’t know me particularly closely and had no obligation to stick around, continuing to use and pay for my services. Yet I didn’t have one bad reaction, every single person I told was amazing, and on my side. I’m sure this overwhelmingly positive response was, in part, due to the signals they received from me which let them know exactly what response I was expecting.

The exact same strategy can be utilised when implementing change in your business or corporation. How you go about it will vary depending on what changes you’re trying to make and who it is you’re needing to bring on board, but all it takes is a little thought. The main thing is to put yourself in their shoes. Rather than just telling them something’s going to change and forcibly dragging them along for the ride, imagine how they will may feel about it, and then what you can do to prevent those feelings from being negative.

There are many different angles from which to approach this. Another example, that I also used during my transition, is about the timing, or the speed at which change is implemented. Sometimes it just takes time for new ideas to sink in and feel less scary. Without rushing people, many won’t feel as threatened, uncomfortable, pressured, or have a knee-jerk reaction, which are feelings that are far more likely to make them resistant to these new ideas. Yes, it may mean it takes slightly longer to get where you need to, or that you need to start planning a little earlier, but whatever strategy you decide upon, with a strong team around you that are on board, that change is likely to be far stronger and more successful in the long run.

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