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08 Nov 2017


We’ve recently been talking with senior leaders about how they tackle their ‘treacle layer’.

When they are looking to drive change, these are parts of the organisation where everything gets stuck, in a negative way, as if in treacle.

Let’s describe this in terms of four ‘C’s. These ‘treacle’ people are:

  • Cynical – they have ‘seen it all before’ and will tell you ‘it didn’t work in ’93, so won’t now’
  • Comfortable – they don’t want to put their heads above the parapet and risk the monthly paycheck
  • Constipated – definitely stuck in their ways!

To be fair, they may also be suffering from the fourth ‘C’ – Change Fatigue. Their superiors need to be wary of that.

It’s tempting to be ageist about this – because many people within this ‘treacle layer’ are older employees, who have hit a glass ceiling and are seeing out their retirement.

But this is unfair, as organisations also have people with specialist skills who only focus on that skill and don’t want to play any part beyond it.

So how do enlightened CEOs and other senior leaders deal with this?

The first way is to look at the treacle layer positively.

These people are usually highly experienced and others can learn from them, if only there was a way to capture and share that knowledge.

Secondly (and this is probably age related) they need help, when it comes to IT systems or automation – as they may not be as technically savvy as the proverbial Millenials. They may also feel insecure about AI, which they see as a threat.

The third positive is that if those cynical members within the treacle can be converted (around whatever changes are being made), they can become the strongest advocates for change and win over others like them.

An effective way to convert the treacle layer is to follow the LEAD principles that one CEO we talked to uses – when getting ‘up close and personal’ with them:

L – Listen to their needs and issues

E – Enthuse them. Don’t just knock them

A – Act – make it clear what actions are needed from them

D – Delivery – explain what you expect them to deliver as a result of these actions

Of course, all this is easier said than done. But if these principles are followed, at worst, the treacle will become a bit more workable.

(Pic from Amazon)

Message to senior leaders: If you would like to take part in our survey on change, here’s the link https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/tbichange We will share the results in six weeks time.