One of the greatest challenges we hear from a lot of CEOs is getting their team members to truly buy into their vision. We often hear comments like these:
“They say they are on board and don’t act like it. Their behaviors are, at best, slowing things down, at worst, blocking the key initiatives.”
“I didn’t create the goals and initiatives and give it them. They collectively set the goals. It came from them—yet their behaviors don’t reflect what they say they will do.”
Often the explanation is people are resistant to change. That is not our experience. People want to grow and improve their ability to achieve what they want, and they think they are doing what is required.
The reason is we have a disconnect between what the rational mind thinks is going on and how the inner “rules-of-the-game” direct behaviors.
The inner rules-of-the-game is what we call their Context. It is the mostly unconscious set of rules of how to respond to various situations to maximize one’s chances of success and safety.
This applies to an individual and any group of individuals, be it a team, a department, or the organization as a whole. As will the suggestions that follow.
We are designed this way so that we can be very efficient in responding to life’s events. As we experience something new, we formulate a story that explains that event and how we should relate and respond to it. Then when we experience similar events, we can respond quickly.
That is the good news. The bad news is these rules, or this set of stories, is also how we define ourselves, our sense of identity. It’s how we have programmed ourselves to be safe and successful.
Our rational minds establish a future vision and set goals to achieve it. We may even know rationally that this will require new behaviors. After all, everyone knows that trying to achieve something new and doing the same behaviors is insanity.
When it comes to responding to life’s events in a new way, we run smackdab against the inner rules-of-the-game that has us responding in the old way.
Back to our CEO who is struggling with getting true buy in. What can they do?
First make sure there is clear understanding of the “what, how and why” of the new direction. These three elements are needed for the rational mind to fully buy in. Why is this change important? How are we going to get there? What changes are required? What are we going to use as progress measures, so we know we are on the right path?
Most leaders know how to do this. While this s a critical first step, it is only the first step. Unfortunately, too many leaders think this is all it takes.
Once we have the basics for the rational mind, leaders must next be able to deal with the often-unconscious forces of the Context, the inner rules-of-the-game. We want to reframe the old Context into one that will naturally trigger the behaviors that are right for the new direction.
Since their Context is a set of stories, we need to understand what their story is and once we do we want to help them reframe it to support the desired new behavior patterns.
Here are some helpful strategies for leaders:
Understand others’ perspective: Not everyone sees the world the same. Everyone has their own sense of what will make them successful. They will also have fears around what they may lose if they changed. It’s important to listen to their concerns and see things from their point of view.
Identify the benefits: To balance the fear of loss, they need to see the positive benefits to them of the change. These benefits are not usually the material benefits but benefits of an expanded identify, an expanded sense of self and the outcomes they can achieve. Explore and discover together. Let them identify what those benefits might be and how it will enhance their life.
Be supportive: Change represents loss, things will no longer be quite the same. Loss is an emotionally impactful experience that does not respond well to rational reasons to change. Let them know you not only understand, but you also empathize, and will help them process through the change.
Choice: People have to feel empowered to change and adjust to the new. The only way to empower someone is to let them make the choice that best serves their life. Without the experience of true choice, they will never truly buy-in. It is important to find the right balance between maintaining the needs of the organization overall and allowing each member to choose what is best for them.
Potentially, get outside help: Organizations are a set of dynamic human relations. People respond to each other based on the historical baggage they bring to relationships. Often an outside objective person will be heard different than someone in the midst of the relationship dynamics.
Contact us for an informal conversation how we can help your organization move forward.