Dr. Marcia Reynolds is passionate about changing the conversations leaders have at work. She feels the most effective leaders help people think more broadly for themselves, and believes that when leaders have powerful conversations that change people’s minds from the inside out, the workplace comes alive with an eagerness to discover what is possible.
People don’t change because you want them to. They might not even change if they want to.
Three conditions must be present for people to engage with you to explore new ways of looking at situations: willingness, desire, and courage. Without these conditions, you will be frustrated with the waste of time. You can, however, help to build in these conditions so when you move to exploring possibilities, people move with you.
To engage in a mind-changing conversation with someone, first assess their levels of Willingness, Desire, and Courage. tweet this
Inspire the Willingness to Talk
You can’t insist someone have an exploratory conversation with you and expect it to be fruitful. You need to declare your intention and then gauge if he or she is willing to work with you for at least part of the process. Willingness dissipates when people feel forced to participate.
To maintain willingness, acknowledge the person’s perspective as valid even if it varies from your own. Never make anyone feel wrong. If the person feels you are trying to help him, not fix him, and that you will give him time and space to process the conversation in any way that works for him, he will stay with you even when the tension is thick. Look for tips on how to deal with other people’s emotions in my post, How to Stay Present in Difficult Conversations When People Get Emotional.
Discover Their Desire Based on a Personal Value
Unless there is a payoff based on something the other person truly wants, willingness will not endure. There won’t be a breakthrough in thinking without the person’s desire for the outcome. You have to consider what this might be before you have the conversation, and then be open to discovering that he might have a different desire that would inspire the change during the conversation. Never assume you know someone too well to ask him what he wants.
Payoffs that inspire change are usually related to something the person values, including being seen as a leader, being respected by peers, earning the chance to be given challenging projects, carving out more time with family, and gaining more peace of mind. Tying the change to someone’s personal values and career dreams will help ensure long-term results.
Discover what they want, not just what you want for them, and then let them know the change will help them achieve what they most desire.
Develop the Courage to Look Within
Mind-changing conversations are like a hero’s journey. You are taking someone on an adventure of self-exploration where he may need to battle mental habits. The battle takes courage. You need to create a sense of safety before going into the conversation, and then maintain safety throughout the conversation even when you challenge his assumptions and fears.
There will be times when he will refuse to accept the challenge; you can’t make people feel courageous. If, however, he trusts your intention is linked to his desire, you should be able to help him move forward when the demons arise. Helping someone muster the courage to say, “Yes!” when he feels awkward, afraid, or unhappy is one of the greatest gifts you can give.
If you want to make a real difference for someone, stick with these conversations even when they feel uncomfortable. Opening someone’s mind to new solutions and a broader self-concept is one of the most rewarding things you will do as a leader.
photo credit: CarbonNYC [in SF!]
Dr. Marcia Reynolds has over 30 years working with global corporations in executive coaching and leadership training. She shares more tips like this in her new book, The Discomfort Zone: How Leaders Turn Difficult Conversations into Breakthroughs. She is also the author of 2 other books, Outsmart Your Brain and Wander Woman (for high-achieving women), and a regular blogger for Psychology Today. Read more at her website, OutsmartYourBrain.com.