“The people who get what we are trying to do are telling me they understand the point of the change programme but they haven’t got their head around what it means yet, what they have to do differently.”
This was the view of the person driving the change programme. He was talking about the ones most supportive of change, the ones doing their best to adapt and evolve. They knew and signed up to the goals but they hadn’t made the shift to the new way of thinking in their head. The result was no change in behaviour. They were still doing the same old things in the same old way.
I knew exactly what he was saying but for me, he had missed a crucial point. The problem is not that people’s thinking hasn’t shifted in response to the change process. If they understand and are convinced by the rationale for the new approach they have, almost by definition, made the mental shift. The challenge is something quite different.
It is relatively easy for us to change our thinking. And, of course, if we want to get something done we have to do exactly that. We have to convince people of our argument, persuade them to see things the way we do. But that does not necessarily make any tangible difference. Agreeing with the strategic approach doesn’t mean we will behave differently.
It’s the shift at our emotional core that counts. We may not understand it, we may not be able to articulate it, but if we don’t ‘feel it’ we probably won’t do it and we certainly won’t do it with the passion and determination necessary to make it a success.
With the emotional commitment of your team almost anything is possible!
The challenge, therefore, is how to make sure the people in your business take the emotional leap.
It’s not easy and it’s certainly not quick but there are some basics you need to get right to begin the process of securing emotional engagement.
People need to feel involved. No one likes having things done to them, so seek feedback and listen carefully. A superficial paper exercise of a consultation is not only unlikely to be particularly effective, it could be actively destructive, undermining trust. But if people feel they have been heard, their contribution thoughtfully considered, and they get good feedback on what’s happening next and why, then emotional engagement is much more likely to follow.
This dialogue is also an incredibly important opportunity to understand the barriers to action. The problem here is people might not understand the blocks themselves, but unless you can get to the bottom of them nothing is going to change. If you’re going to find this out listen carefully to every piece of communication, overt and covert, verbal and non-verbal. And a valuable rule of thumb is where there is a conflict between the verbal and non-verbal, it’s the non-verbal that is almost always the accurate message.
Drawing on my years as a communication consultant and work as a counsellor I can help you hear and respond to the messages that count.
The essential point is what you see is what is in the picture. There is no distinction here between facts and alternative facts, between reality and a post-reality world. If this pictures conjures up particular emotions and feelings for you, then those are the emotions this picture projects.
It doesn’t matter how others experience this image, the way you experience it is real. It is how it is to you. Every individual’s experience is unique, a very personal composite of her own innate personality, her environment and the interaction between the two.
So why am I rabbiting on about this?
From the psychotherapeutic perspective, if someone in your team has a view about something that seems weird, irrational or just unreasonable that is causing problems, describing it as such is not going to get you anywhere. If that is their perception, then that is their reality and if it’s a problem in the business environment you need to be open and flexible enough to see things from their perspective.
From the communications perspective, it matters because whatever you think about your business, what counts is what your customers think. If you’ve got your business strategy right, you know exactly what your business is about; you know what it stands for. Your marketing collateral will embody and bring to life everything about your business that you believe is special and the focus will be on the benefits of buying from you.
But what if this doesn’t resonate with your customers, clients or consumers? What if you’re talking about benefits that don’t matter to them? Or even worse, what if what you say seems to bear no connection to their experience of your business. You’re saying working with you is fun but their experience is of a sluggish and tired business. This is an extreme. It is more likely is that you will say you are innovative and creative while their experience of you is as generally straightforward with occasional good ideas.
It’s incredibly easy to think we are projecting the impression we want, but the problem is often that another’s experience of us is something quite different. It may be enmeshed with their own life experiences, but if we don’t take the time to find out, our messages are going to miss their mark.
According to Beisser’s Paradoxical Theory of Change, personal development is only possible when we understand exactly what and where we are. The same is true of all organisations. You can only move in the direction you want if you know where you are today. And that means taking the time to find out where your targets are at and how they view you. There is only one way to find this out. You have to ask, and perhaps more importantly, ask with a very open mind. Otherwise you will hear what you want instead of what you’re being told.
I have developed a relational perception audit that will give you the information you need. Give me a call if you want to find out more.