You don’t influence others by giving them a report to read!
Yet that seems to be the most popular way of proposing change nowadays – how many times have you been asked to “put it in writing“?
Well, there is another, more effective way you can influence others – by giving them an experience. To illustrate this, let me tell you the story of Jon Stegner taken from In The Heart of Change, by John P. Kotter and Dan S. Cohen.
Jon had realised that there was a problem with the purchasing process in the company he worked for, that would probably them around one billion dollars over 5 years if it wasn’t dealt with!
Unfortunately, none of the other senior executive team could see this, so nothing was being done to change matters.
What did he do?
Well, Jon decided to carry out a small study by asking a member of his team to find out how much the company paid for gloves used in the factories, and how many different types it used.
The results astonished him: 424 different types!
What amazed him even more was that each factory had its own supplier and their own negotiated price. A pair of gloves that was costing one factory $5 was costing another $17.
Jon had a sample of each glove collected and tagged with the name of the factory it was used in and its price, and sorted the gloves by type and by division in the organisation.
Next, he arranged to meet with the executive team.
On the day of the meeting he piled all the gloves onto the boardroom table. Yes, all 424 of them!
When the division presidents came in they couldn’t believe their eyes. “We buy all of these?” they asked, before going to look at the gloves their factories were using.
Leadership is influence.
They were astonished to learn that they were paying around $10 for a glove which looked every bit the same as a $3 glove from another division.
The gloves went on to do a travelling road show to every division, reinforcing just how bad things were. As a consequence, the motivation to change this was huge. It raised the level of urgency, and once Jon had done some benchmarking of competitors he was given a mandate to instigate change.
Why is this such a powerful approach to influence others?
Rather than analysing all the costs and producing a huge report which potentially would go unread, Jon created an experience for the senior executive team. It was an experience which couldn’t help but impact on their feelings, changing their state. And, with a change in their state came the desire to act.
As I have written before, words are powerful when it comes to influencing other people’s. But even the most powerful words can rarely match an experience, a demonstration that wows the audience.
Call to Action:
- Identify an element of a project or change programme you are currently working in which you need to influence others and where the output would normally be a report aimed at starting action
- Create a way to change it from a report into an experience, something the others can see, hear and touch…perhaps even smell or taste.
Now, notice the difference in the results you get.
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