Have you heard the old joke about how many psychiatrists it takes to change a lightbulb? One: but the lightbulb has to want to change.
How many times have you felt you were dealing with dim bulb employees or colleagues? (It has to be their fault, right?)
Let’s take some personal responsibility about this.
Why Your People Don’t Change When You Want Them To
It helps to have a proven process to draw upon. Here’s a good one: the Behavioral Change Stairway Model, developed by the FBI’s Crisis Negotiation Unit. While your situation may not be a crisis, the method is still useful in leading change.
Before You Begin: Set Your Goal
This is my preliminary step. Too often we wing-it or blunder into important conversations. Take five minutes before you open your mouth. Write the outcome you want to see. Make it measurable and specific (so you’ll actually know if you get there).
This gives you the added bonus of engaging your subconscious mind in helping you create strategies and tactics to get to your goal. (For more on that, see “You Have More Brains than You Think”).
Here’s what to do next.
Step #1: Active Listening
Start with a conversation—rather than a directive. Ask open-ended questions to gather information. Paraphrase what you hear—repeat what the other person has said, in her words—to make sure you understand what she means.
Don’t interrupt, disagree or evaluate. Pay attention, rather than using the time to think about what you’re going to say next.
Use encouraging language to show your interest. (“Really?” “Hmmmm.” “I didn’t know that.”) Intentional pauses show that you’re thinking about what the other person is saying.
Step #2: Empathy
This is the result of active listening: showing you understand the person and the situation—and not just the facts. Make sure your tone of voice, as well as your words, expresses genuine caring.
Identify and confirm the emotions the other person is sharing. (“That sounds frustrating.” “You must have been relieved!”)
The business world too often pretends feelings don’t exist. But you can only build a relationship by showing your concern for someone’s emotions and perceptions.
Step #3: Rapport
Empathy is what you feel. Rapport is when they feel it back. This is where trust becomes possible.
Rapport happens as you find common ground between another’s viewpoint and yours. Look for ways to help the other person save face, or support him or her. When possible, frame the situation in a positive way.
Step #4: Influence
You now have earned the right to work on solving a problem with someone. Only here is it possible to make suggestions—because both of you feel in sync with each other. If there has been a conflict, explore possible and realistic solutions. Talk about alternatives, without forcing your ideas.
Step #5: Behavioral Change
Chances are that a number of ideas have surfaced. Let that person make suggestions on what he or she will do with what you’ve discussed. Know the approach selected might not be the one you would have chosen. Find ways to help the person do what she or he has promised and explain how your support will look.
Where We Screw Up
Most of us want to jump right to Step #4—and even tell people what to do. That cuts out the whole buy-in part of the process for them. In a sense that holds them hostage to us. It also eliminates any reason for them to want to change, because they haven’t played any role in what happens next.
How ironic that we need to change our behavior before we can expect others to change theirs.