Who’s going to help you tip the change?

Pixabay – Open Clipart-Vectors 

In the Switch, Chip and Dan Heath (2010) explained the value of growing your people.  In particular, they noted the value of identity and a growth mindset. I was struck by their question, “How can you make your change a matter of identity rather than a matter of consequence?” (p. 154).  After all, they shared that a change which violates a person’s identity is likely doomed to fail and mere incentives will not change people’s behaviour (p. 154).

We see it in education… most students don’t change just because there’s a consequence and in business team’s don’t just increase their numbers because there’s a bonus.  It’s deeper than a simple exchange of service.  Each person is motivated by a different set of experiences, when you can unite your team toward a common goal that they truly believe in – that’s when you will see the most growth.

As a leader, how often do you stop to think about the identity or mindset that you are fostering?  James March identified two models of decision making.  People either make a rational decision based on an analysis of the pros and cons or they decide based on the identity they’ve adopted.   March suggested people using the identity model decide based on three questions,

“Who am I?
What kind of situation is this?
What would someone like me do in this situation?”
(Heath, 2010, p. 153).

Rational doesn’t always win and identities aren’t written in stone.

As a leader with ethos and logos, you may convince the rational rider of the value and cost effectiveness of your plan, but if the emotional elephant (pathos) isn’t moved by the numbers they won’t travel very far down the path with you. It goes back to knowing your students and your people.  What matters to them?  Have you listened first and spoke last?

Take for instance the fascinating example of Brasilata.  It illustrated how identities can be adopted and shaped over the course of people’s lives.  The Heath’s wrote of how Brasilata  chose to create an inventor identity.  Everyone in the company was considered an inventor and it was their job to share their ideas.  The company, in turn, built on the ideas suggested and in time became one of the top leaders in steel can manufacturing (p. 156-157).  As an educator, the story of how one principal changed the identity of a down and out inner city school to a one of striving for excellence was heart warming.  It’s certainly not easy, but there are bright spots.

Pixabay – Geralt 

It also turns out that there are 3 key types of people you want involved in your change efforts.  In fact as Malcolm Gladwell (2006) wrote, they will tip the change.  Have you heard of connectors, mavens and salesmen?

First, you need to find your connectors.  These are the people who know lots of people in a diverse variety of social circles.  They also make it a habit to introduce people from different circles.  They are the connectors. Think about who you know and who introduced you to those people….often, Gladwell noted, those connectors show up over and over in how you met your friends.

As an introvert, connectors are very helpful.  Finding people who genuinely care about connecting you with other people of similar interests decreases the energy it costs to meet new people. When I’m connected with a person who has similar interests, you can get right to the issues rather than the preliminary small talk. Less stressing about meeting people means more time investing in real learning.

You’ve likely identified the connectors, but have you thought about the mavens?  They are the “people we rely upon to connect us with new information” (p. 19). They are the curators of knowledge about very specific topics.  We all know them.  They are the people you go to when you have a question about something specific; moreover, you trust them and what they say because they have a great track record. People buy or go places because these people recommended it.

Lastly, you have your persuaders sometimes known as salesmen. Not the stereotypical used car salesman, but rather people with well developed rhetoric skill.  They have ethos (you trust them), they know their stuff (logos) and they can sell (pathos – emotion). Even their body language cues your brain to buy in.  We’ve all heard them.  They are the TED speakers that Carmine Gallo (2014) wrote about.  They are the people you would follow to places you’ve never wanted to go.  Their energy and enthusiasm is contagious.

To this day, I still remember attending my first Sciematics conference as a young biology teacher and listening to Brian Keating speak.  By the end of the session I wanted to travel to Antarctica and camp on the ice just to learn more about the penguins.  (I didn’t really but in that moment it sure felt like I did)  Just a few weeks ago I listened to Color By Amber Executive Chairman and Founder, Talley Goodson.  As he shared his passion for design and innovation in a way that not only gives back to the artisans but makes the planet a better place, his positive energy was contagious.  He not only wants to make the world a better place, he’s committed to making it happen.  Who doesn’t want to be part of that.

So we need all kinds of people to sustain change.  Gladwell (2006), Gallo (2014) and the Heath’s (2010) emphasized the fact the your message has to be sticky.  People have to remember the change to actually share it.  In fact in today’s social media world, Gallo (2014) reminded us that you need to be able to share your message in 140 characters or less.

Finally, remember the power of context.  Gladwell (2006) asked readers to think about the broken windows effect.  That is… our behaviour changes to fit the context of the environment in which we function.  If you walk down a dirty street with garbage strewn all around and broken windows surrounded by graffiti filled storefronts, the petty crime rate goes up.  An increase in small crimes is the gateway to more violent crimes.  So when people talk about cleaning up the streets, it does actually make a difference.  Start with the small changes and the bigger ones will follow.

As a leader, how are you empowering your team to shape the path to sustainable change?  Will it happen in the climate and culture you currently exist in?  Like Cloud (2013) said, “you always get what you create and what you allow” (Boundaries for Leaders, p. xvi).

Where do you want to be?