I remember, way back in the day, I was working for a software company, selling scheduling technology to colleges and universities. At one point, I was talking to a prospect whose entire team was, unfortunately, attached to an incredibly obsolete, home grown program. If it weren’t for ancient hardware being replaced, I’m not sure they ever would have looked at new software at all. But their change came with pain and resistance — because everyone loved what they had. It was theirs, they built it, they knew it, it was comfortable, familiar and personal. And while it was true that our technology could replace what they had and upgrade it in amazing ways, that didn’t seem to matter. They didn’t want to lose what they had; they didn’t want to give up the comfort of the familiar.
Last week, we talked about how easy it is to get caught up in the sorrow of what we’re losing and completely miss the joy and possibility of what we can gain. Humans have tendency to look at anything different as bad. As I spoke with the school, they were so focused on what they were losing, they were unable to see what they could have gained. So, I took a different approach. I asked them about everything they loved and were afraid of losing. They were able to tell me what their beloved software did and everything they loved about it. Truth be told, it was amazing on so many levels — especially when you consider the platform it was built upon and its age. From there, it was all too natural for me to shift the conversation to, “And what do you wish it could do?” There was no focus on what was wrong with it, just on the wish list they kept sending the engineers.
From that place of positivity, of wishing and dreaming, they were able to paint the picture themselves — because they knew all the gaps and imperfections. Once they remembered those things, once they expressed them to me, it became clear in their own eyes that things could be better without taking anything away from what they had. As a result, they made the decision pretty quickly. Once they began dreaming, the focus shifted from loss to possibility, and they began to
ask, “Can your software do this ____?”
Fortunately for us, most of those answers were yes — and a whole lot more. In some cases, they hadn’t even given themselves permission to dream as big as we had already done! As a result, we were able to take them not just to their wish, but to the one after that as well.
Isn’t that really the job of us as leaders? To help people figure out how to get to where they want to be? To acknowledge and understand fears, but open a dialogue to explore what they could achieve and who they could become?
Be the bridge from comfort to possibility.