“No matter what I do, they don’t seem to listen!”
The person sighed with frustration in his voice.
He’d been trying all kinds of different things to get his organization to change but to no avail.
The thing they wanted to change seemed pretty straightforward on the surface.
They wanted to sell on value and stop giving discounts.
But their salespeople simply didn’t get it.
They’d done everything they were supposed to.
- They’d changed the incentives
- They’d repeatedly reprimanded the ones most resistant to change
- They’d changed the strategy to reflect the changes they wanted to see.
In other words, most of the organization was in alignment with what they were looking for.
But it didn’t matter.
The change still wasn’t happening.
Something I’ve always found deeply fascinating about human nature, is how comfortable we are with the status quo.
Unless our deepest and oldest mechanisms are evoked (think fight or flight) then we’re most likely to continue doing what we’ve always done.
However, human beings also have a competing need that we see in action every day – namely the need to fit into the group.
In other words, if someone we look up to start doing something differently, then chances are we are also going to start doing those things differently as well.
This is why a lot of us are a lot like our parents – and why we use the saying “monkey see, monkey do” about human children too.
What’s fascinating however, is that this behavioral characteristic doesn’t go away as we get older – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Many of us display a feel a greater need to fit into our peer group, because we have a lot more to lose by straying from the norm. In evolutionary terms exclusion from the groups equals death, and although we’ve advanced technologically we’re still stuck with the same brain that we’ve had for the last 1.7 million years (source). This means, that our behavioral pattern are very much the same as they’ve been for almost two million years.
This means that to lead effective change, you must tailor it to fit our brain.
One way to do that is by using The Power Of Champions.
The Power Of Champions is the idea that people will follow the people they look up to.
Now people can look up to others for all kinds of reasons, but most people will look up to those of their colleagues who perform the best, and is put on a pedestal by leadership. What’s interesting here is that leadership always puts someone on a pedestal, whether or not they realize it, and that has ripple effects all the way down the company and becomes a part of the ethos of the company.
This means that in order to lead change effectively, we must find the right Champion in the company and actively put that person on the pedestal they deserve.
But in order to do it effectively we must do it consciously.
And this leads us back to our story.
Once we’d mapped out what was really going on in my client’s organization, it became clear that there were a number of Champion candidates in their organization. We then conducted interviews with each of them and their colleagues to figure out who held the largest sway in the organization as well as who would be most the most willing cooperator.
Our final candidate had almost all the characteristics we were looking for
- They’d been in the company for long enough to understand the problem, but not long enough to be part of it
- They were well liked by peers, bosses and clients
- They had the results to match their acumen
- They weren’t currently a Champion
As soon as we started to change the communication around the results that this person was achieving, and more importantly how they were achieving them, people started following suit.
Not everyone at once of course, but little by little things started happening.
People started realizing what it meant to operate the way management desired.
And more importantly management no longer had to constantly correct people and follow up, which in turn freed up loads of time.
Here’s the main point:
If we constantly try to implement change from the bottom up, with initiatives, strategies, change of plans and new org charts, it’s going to go nowhere.
But if we work from the bottom up – one person at a time – then we are likely to see results across the organization faster than we think.