Tuesday, June 25th, 2019

How to Get Someone to Change – Without Changing

Change Creates Opportunity

Today, I was on Larry Whitler’s radio show on WOCA-AM in Ocala, Florida. Larry was talking about all of the change that has happened, and continues to happen, in the radio industry. He said many years ago music was on AM. Then, FM came along and took away music, threatening the survival of AM radio stations. So, AM had to reinvent itself as talk-radio. Today, talk-radio listeners are moving from AM to the Internet. So, talk-radio shows must change, again, by embracing podcasting and social media. I mentioned that change brings opportunity—in this case for a local AM radio station to expand its audience to the national, and even global, audience on the Internet. This is a perfect example of the power of being a change leader, instead of a change follower.  By embracing change and leading it, you can grow your business more than you might have imagined.

Is a Rose by Any Other Name Still a Rose?

A Tulip Is a Rose, If You Name It a RoseHere’s another point that came up in our discussion. Larry made the suggestion that one needs to be cognizant of both the past and current situations when making a change.  He gave an example that radio commercials have a label such as “CART 1234”. So, when he needs to play the commercial for, say, the local auto dealer, he plays “CART 1234”.  He said, “Do you know why commercials have that label? That used to be the way we identified the tape cartridge! Of course, we don’t have cartridges anymore, but we still use the label.” This raises a great point. Psychologists say that before we can make a change, we must emotionally let go of the status quote and let it die in our minds. Then, we will be able to embrace the birth of the new situation. But, in this case, people in the radio industry made the changes easier to accept–by holding on to a certain vision of the present while changing the underlying mechanism. Essentially, they changed without having to experience the emotional death of the status quo.

That is a very powerful concept!  You don’t have to throw the baby out with the bath water when making a change. Hold on to your baby, which can be a metaphor for your ideals, the value you provide to customers, etc—and then simply change the bath water.  As Jim Blasingame says, you can be in love with what you do, just not how you do it.

Three Action Ideas

Here are four quick ideas on how you can apply this concept to be a more effective change leader:

  1. Retain key symbols: When painting the vision of the new situation, retain key symbols of the present.  This will enable your client to see the situation, not as a radical departure toward a strange, unknown destination, but rather, as the same—just better.
  2. Use “Current-Plus”: Consider giving the project or change idea a name that is “Current-Plus”. For example, let’s say you sell accounting systems and your client refers to their system as “ACS”, which stands for “Acme accounting system”. Then, you could call the proposed system, “ACS Plus”.
  3. Hold on to cherished values: Identify the values that your client holds dear—and then encourage your client to hold on to them. Comfort your client by reassuring him/her the change does not threaten what s/he values most. Rather, it enhances your client’s ability to retain them.
  4. Change creates opportunities: Identify the opportunities that are created by making the change and paint a vivid picture of those opportunities for your client. For example, by embracing the Internet, local AM talk-radio shows can expand far beyond their existing local audience.

So, is a rose by any other name still a rose? In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Juliet Capulet, uses this line to say that Romeo Montague is still the Romeo she loves, even if his name is “Montague”.  As change leaders, we can encourage our clients to hold on to their “rose” at the same time that we encourage them to accept a tulip as their new “rose”. They can change—without changing!

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