Last month, Senior Partner, Damian McAlonan was invited by the team at ‘Communicate Influence’ to discuss the changing role of leadership in the workplace.
He said that whether its a podcast, panel debate or workshop one question comes up more than any other.
That question is:
Can you change someone, even if they don’t want to change?
In short the answer is, yes.
The best example of this is Charles Dickens character Scrooge from 'A Christmas Carol'. You might remember that at the start of the book Scrooge is reluctant to change until visited by spirits that show him his past, present, and future.
So, why does he change?
Scrooge changes because he sees that staying the same is more painful than changing.
BUT here’s the point.
When examined there are really only 2 ways to effect change in someone - You can either;
1. Inspire or,
Inspiring people means educating them to change or supporting them in their change. Its the 'right way' to see someone improving long term - But this method is often shunned because it takes a lot of time and effort.
The alternative is to ‘make’ someone change - This requires coercion or manipulation - Sadly, too many self-help authors, life coaches and business guru’s sit in this camp.
Its a popular method of getting someone to change but the results are often short lived. That's because when you ask anyone if they want to change for the better they answer, yes.
Tell them the effort they must put in, the sacrifices they must make, the failure they will face. All of a sudden the desire to make that change fades.
My point being;
Everyone wants to change, but very few people are willing to change.
You might have seen this in training and development programs.
A common criticism of the learning and development profession is that it provides tools and techniques but little thought on how this creates behavioral change.
We hate saying it - But, people who tend to populate workshops are there because, they’ve been told to be there.
The process of learning and development usually starts with the managers assessment, normally after a performance review, then they tell you what skills you're weak at or missing - Then its off to a workshop/course to get that part ‘fixed’.
There's lots of problems with this approach, the main one being it isn’t necessarily your goal.
Its not something you're desperate to change, and lets be honest, you don't know how it will benefit your future.
However, the people who really benefit from workshops or training have decided themselves what they want, and why they want it.
Like most things, until you choose to take responsibility for your own development, then attempting to change through ‘training’ is a waste of time and company money.
I believe a person will change if they feel the change is theirs - especially if they feel they chose it and that they control it.
So, are a few suggestions on how you can create change without forcing it?
1. LEAD FROM THE FRONT
A great example come's from a close friend of Damian, Andrew Ramage. Andy started an enormous ripple-effect in his close community and world-wide with his ‘One Year, No Beer' challenge.
Andy tackled the subject of alcohol showing how ingrained it is in our lives – Not by getting all preachy about what people should do, but rather by opening the door on his own life and the challenge he set for himself.
He didn’t say don't drink, or drinking is bad for you - Instead he set a challenge to change a small part of what he did to discover more about himself. Safe to say, Andy has inspired so many people to change through the 'one year, no beer' challenge and I personally tip my hat to his success.
2. INSTEAD OF BEING RIGHT, ASK THE RIGHT QUESTION
Forcing your own answers on somebody is the least effective way to convince or even change them - Even if you have the best intentions, or believe you’re 100% right.
Instead, try to ask better questions.
A question allows the person time to internalize the problem they have.
It helps people reflect on what they need to do and invites the opportunity for you to support their change.
For example, instead of saying, “You should be hitting your target this month,” you could say; “Do you believe you’re done enough to meet the target this month?”
Asking questions and listening shows you want to help the individual, move it on for them – Not just tell them what to do and dangle a threat of "change or else"!
3. BE REAL AND RELATE
A mistake people make in management is the belief they need to give all the right answers – It’s a toxic form of leadership that creeps in with the ‘power’ a management position gives.
It’s also the (wrong) expectation of employees that leadership should have all the answers.
When it comes to influencing change the best advice is not to give it - Don't provide an answer. Listening and relating with your own experience is probably a better alternative.
For example you can explain a 'similar' experience to the one you have been given - Describing how you managed to eventually overcome it will empower the recipient to either learn from your experience, find out what’s useful, or simply discard it.
Your experience provides a perspective to the issue they face.
They then have the autonomy to choose what to do or how to change.
So, there you have it, like Scrooge, ultimately, we’re only ever capable of changing ourselves.
There’s so much more we’d like to say - We didn’t even get to tell you the story of the Frog and the Scorpion - Oh well, maybe you’ll come back to read some other articles soon.
Its totally up to you :)