A blog by Peter Stinckens
Yes, there are many easy to follow three step systems or four step plans offered by self-acclaimed gurus that tell you exactly how to do it. But sadly, almost all of them fail the confrontation with day-to-day reality. Why? Because they are based upon theoretical reasoning and not on how our brain works.
So, here’s one approach towards change that will not fail. It’s a kind of a magical formula that will help you implement change whenever you want, without resistance or sabotage. Let me try to explain how it works, without any scientific mumbo-jumbo or difficult words.
To do that, I would like to start with an event that happened a few weeks ago in a town close to where I live.
It was late in the evening, an agreeable Thursday evening, when Jenifer walked back home. It was a busy street, lots of people strolling from bar to bar, leaving restaurants, meeting with friends.
Then someone attacked her. A young man, obviously drunk, pushed here to the wall and tried to get her wallet. When he didn’t succeed – mainly because of his own clumsiness, he got angry and punched her in the face.
Maybe he liked hitting her more then the money he was looking for. I don’t know, however, he kept on hitting her, with his fist, in her face, on her arms, wherever he could hit her.
All this went on, while a crowd gathered around the scene. She cried for help. But nobody in the crowd seemed to be willing to interfere. Until one young woman came running towards the fight and, without any hesitation, began to push the young man away.
And, like a miracle happened, all of a sudden just about anyone started to help her. Within seconds they pulled the young man away from the girl. A few minutes later the ambulance and the police arrived. Jennifer ended up with a broken jaw, four broken ribs, a punctured lung, a broken nose, two teeth missing and lots of bumps and bruises. But she survived.
Doctors and policemen declared later that the action of the young woman probably saved her life. So what happened here? Dozens of people looking and…nobody did anything. Only when the young woman interfered, everybody joined in the effort.
The vast majority of people who ever witnessed street violence can tell a similar story. Most people are not inclined to take action when something happens outside their normal routine. Countless experiments in sociology, psychology and neurology explain why this happens.
Taking unfamiliar actions is always a risk. We cannot foresee the consequences, so we hesitate. And hesitation always makes us focus on the possible negative consequences. As a result, we wait. We wait, until we see other people taking that action, and our group instinct kicks in. Then we follow.
The same thing happens in less dramatic circumstances when, for instance, we try to implement a chance in our working routines, or when we face a new challenge. At first we’ll try to ignore it. Then we’ll find a thousand reasons why we should not do it. And most of these reasons, from a certain perspective, are valid.
Only when we see other people do the same thing, without the negative consequences we think of, we start doing it ourselves. And this happens with just about any change in our lives and routines.
So what do managers do, when they are faced with challenges that require people to quickly adapt to new circumstance or when they have to implement change? They have three basic possibilities. Most managers use their authority to impose the change they desire.
The result is a lot of resistance and they loose massive amounts of time to setup control systems. They have to police their staff and spent hours to convincing people and to follow their lead. They get unsatisfied, uninvolved and – as a result – demotivated people and lower productivity.
Other managers approach it as a democracy, and start by trying to involve people. They have meetings, talks, discussions and explanations before they implement the change. They will soon find out that this doesn’t work. By having all these meetings, they offer their staff the possibility to say ‘no’ to the change. And when people find out that they have to change anyway, they get the exact same result then managers that us authority.
Smart managers start with one person (or a small group). They seek out the leading characters in the group and spent time convincing them. Once that’s done, they take time to address the group. They explain what needs to be done, why and how. And the ask people to do it.
The one person or the small group that they’ve already convinced will go to work immediately. And, like clockwork, all the others will follow. Resistance is minimal, you didn’t need to apply force, so you didn’t damage any relationships. And you’ve helped all of your staff to overcome the normal restrictions of their brains.
Or, to return to our example, they’ve provided both the street fight, and the young hero who will instigate the action that can stop it.
Now imagine that something in your company has to change. New challenges arise, now processes need to be put in place, a new approach needs to be implemented. What would you do? Would you prefer to be a bystander, or would you like to be a hero?
If you decide to be a bystander, you’re like the majority. You’ll just be another face in the crowd. But if you decide to be a hero, someone who tries without hesitation, you’ll be seen. People will recognize leadership potential. And that’s a major step up in your career. YOU can make a big difference, for yourself and for everyone around you!