Walking the road to change
By Dr. Janet Curran
At which stop are you?
Here’s a fundamental truth. People will only willingly do something if they can see what’s in it for them. When it comes to changing behaviour people have to first of all recognise that there is a problem within themselves.
Then they have to a point where they want to do something about it. We can illustrate this using a balance between Don’t Change and Change. As you walk along the road to change you will meet different stops, which represent different positions for the Don’t Change/Change balance. If you can recognise the stop that somebody is at, you are more likely to be able to encourage them to take the next step forward.
Stop 1: The Holidaymaker “I’m happy as I am”
At the first stop on the road our Ego encourages us to live in the happy world of the Holidaymaker, who says there’s nothing wrong with me! Ask the Holidaymaker to change and they will simply look at you and ask why?
Because they can’t even see that there is a problem. What’s more their Ego has plenty of reasons for staying as they are, which they will voice as objections. They need to see the existence of a problem in order to take the next step.
Stop 2: The Blamer “It’s not my fault!”
The Blamer’s holiday has ended and they can see that all is not well with the world. But that’s where they get stuck. They see the problems as being out there in the world and not within themselves. The Blamer is the salesperson who moans about Marketing not giving them good enough leads. Or the CEO who says that everyone else in the company needs to buck up their ideas. Deep down the Blamer may know that the problem also lies within them, but their Ego will refuse to allow them to admit it.
Stop 3: The Sufferer “I’m struggling here!”
The Sufferer has taken a big step forward from the Blamer. They have finally broken through their Ego’s defences and started to admit that the problem may have something to do with themselves. For example, the Sufferer may be a salesperson who is worried about their conversion rate being lower than everyone else’s. However, this does not mean that they are ready to try something new. We know from research that people tend to live with their problems. Even though the Ego is no longer in denial it still struggles with the concept of changing well-worn behaviours.
Stop 4: The Customer “I really want to learn this”
The Customer has moved on a step from the Sufferer. They have stopped staring into their navel and bemoaning their situation. Instead they have lifted their heads and can see a new way forward. For them the destination is now in sight. What is different is that they can now see the value of changing. This is the salesperson who is desperate to try out a new approach. Customers talk about wanting something different; wanting something new.
Damian Hughes (Liquid Thinker) talks about three motivators for change: desperation, rationalisation and inspiration, with inspiration being the most motivating. The Customer is inspired to change because of the vision they have of how things could be different. This is what makes it worth going through the potential pain.
Customers are what you need in your organisation for your change programme to stand any chance of success. If you are a coach then you need Customers in your coaching room for your coaching to deliver results.
Stop 5: The Blusterer “I really want to learn this but….”
You might think that once you’ve found your Customers that everything would be plain sailing. But life is never that easy.
The Blusterer is someone who knows what they want to do differently, but for some reason is just not being able to action the change. The Blusterer will tell you that they think the change is wonderful, so you think that they are a Customer. But then they come out with 1001 reasons why they can’t do it. In other words the Blusterer is often a Blamer in disguise.
It’s like when you learn to speak another language. We Brits are renowned for this. A British person may learn enough Spanish to be able to walk into a bar in Ibiza and ask for “dos cervezas por favor” but they often still resist.
They express fear about not understanding the reply, feeling like an idiot or getting it wrong.
Plus trying to put a sentence together in a new language is so much harder than just saying it naturally in your native tongue. It’s so much easier for us to just point at the beer and put up two fingers. The risk of getting it wrong means the person remains stuck with their old behaviour.
So next time you embark on the road to change consider: where are you on the road? And where are the people around you? What needs to happen for them to go on the journey with you?