Last week, I presented the first tip in my series of five ways to guide, grow, and teach others more effectively: "One Bite at a Time".
This week, we'll look at tip #2: Discovery vs. Delivery.
People won't argue with their own data or conclusions but they will often and likely argue with yours. Remember Toula in the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding? (If you've never seen it, do yourself a favor and rent it tonight... it's a classic!) Toula wants to work at her aunt's travel agency instead of the family restaurant. She, her mother, and her aunt know that her Greek father will never agree to this unless... he thinks it's his idea! So of course, they finagle a way to make it seem like it is and when the aunt complains of needing help at her agency to the father... the three women all exchange knowing looks when the Dad exclaims, "I KNOW! Toula could help you!"
If I need to change current habits, beliefs, or behaviors, I start by asking myself, "How can I NOT tell them this?" How can I create a moment where they "discover" for themselves the very answer I was hoping to bring them to?
For example, a few years ago I was observing in a client office in the morning; the team was scheduled for a training session in the afternoon. A team member approached me asking if I could help with a challenge she was facing. She was frustrated by the fact that when the office had a cancellation or open appointment times, some members of their team either "goofed off," like reading magazines in the break room, or they filled the time with low-priority work. She didn't want to be seen as a "tattle-tale" so I agreed to put the topic into the training mix for the afternoon session.
My first inclination was to work in a lecture on the essentials of good teamwork and the characteristics of good team players. My information, my opinion, my demands. Easy to argue with and resist; and almost natural for people to do so, even if they don't verbalize it. Then I caught myself (old habits die hard) and asked the internal question: "How can I NOT tell them this? How can I help them come to their own conclusion?"
My brain went into high gear and on the fly, I came up with this idea: I created four open quadrants on my large flip chart and labeled them: Doctor, Assistant, Hygienist, Administrator. I put up 4 large flipchart sheets on the wall with the same titles. I asked each employee to find their appropriate sheet and write down all the things they could possibly think of that they could do with the time if they found themselves with an unexpected open hour in their schedule. After they were done, I asked them to circulate around the room and add any ideas they had for anyone else's list. Next, I formed two mixed groups, assigned them two sheets each and asked them to prioritize the lists, putting the tasks that would be the most productive to the practice first. I then moderated a discussion about the lists and their prioritization and once we had consensus, someone volunteered to make notecards for every position and post in the break room. They all put their hands in the circle, football-style, and officially and audibly committed to following these lists the next time they had open time in their day.
They never knew a team member complained to me. They came up with their own lists (and they almost always contain exactly what I would have written myself... and on the rare occasion they don't, I just make a suggestion or two as if I just thought of it!) Their challenge, their information, their solution.... And much more likely, their real commitment.
The next time you need to change behavior, ask yourself, "How can I NOT tell them or lecture this? How can I create a moment of discovery and ownership?"