What do you do when you feel a need to change someone’s mind and they’re resistant? After all, people don’t change — right?
Meghan was in just this predicament. Real and significant change was needed and no one was willing to see it. As an interim director she was asked to right a ship gone askew when the previous Director was, shall we say, “made available to industry.” To Meghan it was clear the traditional top-down hierarchy failed to serve both the organization as a whole, and the person in the top position. In fact, the current hierarchical structure had literally never been successful, and yet, here they were, about to do what they had always done, setting themselves up to get what they always got — failure. The board liaison, even though he was generally a reasonable guy, was afraid to take the risk of change. “There’s no evidence your way will work,” he said. “Perhaps,” She replied (though he’s not wholly accurate) “but there’s ample evidence the old way won’t.” “Hmmm. You’ve got 48 hours to put together your best case.” So she and I sat down to layout her options.
Dale Carnegie taught us ‘A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still,’ Real buy-in changes the heart, the head and the actions of an individual, and we wanted all three. We wanted this man to buy in willingly — because mere acquiescence has no buy-in, no commitment, and causes them to step aside waiting for failure rather than engaging to assure success. We wanted success, buy-in and active engagement. So I asked her, “Has this guy ever changed his mind in the past, about other things?”
“Oh, sure,” she replied.
“Great!” I said. “Then it’s time for history to repeat itself. If it happened before, it can happen again.”
If you really want to figure out how to change someone’s mind, try to recreate the experience that changed their mind in the past. Consider these 6 questions:
1. What was effective to draw them in and get their attention? Are they driven by numbers, relationships, impact, revenue? Put your focus there.
2. Everyone has a language they speak. What is their language and how can you incorporate it?
3. What made the previous conversion tangible? We can’t just think something, we have to feel it too. That’s why every car salesperson’s goal is to get you to sit in and ultimately drive the vehicle. Once you feel it, it’s tangible, real, possible.
4. What are their core values and how can you align your objectives with what they most values?
5. What is their ROI measurement? If you can determine how they are going to measure success, you can speak to their language of success.
6. Then to go a bit different in your thinking, consider the environment they were in when they changed their mind in the past. Where they in a board meeting, at dinner, on a leadership retreat… even consider as much as you can know about the times of the day or days of the week they are most receptive and least distracted or stressed.
This is a key aspect in the art of negotiation: Take whatever worked before — and apply it here! To repeat history, you have to recreate the environment and context in which the history was able to occur in the first place. Why reinvent the wheel? We too often overlook the obvious, thinking that our circumstances and situations are particularly unique — and they are, just like everyone else’s, which is to say, we’re not as unique as we think we are.
If it sounds simple — that’s because it is simple (not easy, but simple). And yet, time and time again people ignore and neglect this incredibly effective tactic.
“History repeating itself” doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Use it to your advantage!