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Two Techniques To Help Leaders Create Powerful Change In Others

If you've ever seen the movie Inside Out, you'll know it is a beautiful film about a young girl, Riley, who is guided by her emotional characters of joy, fear, anger, disgust and sadness. The characters live inside Riley's mind and help her navigate her present situation through memories and visions of future possibilities. They help her gain awareness of how her past experiences, perceptions and beliefs provide solutions to overcome her current challenges and create a better future for herself. In essence, she must come to terms with her past before she could accept a better future.

Leaders do something very similar. They deliver powerful results by guiding others in building plans, shaping goals and creating actions. To do this, leaders must understand where others are concerning their readiness for change.

When you listen to others talk about an issue, you'll discover that they are in one of two places. They are either stuck without options for moving forward, or they are ready to move forward but don’t know how. Understanding whether they need support or challenge will significantly increase your effectiveness in driving change in them.

Let’s take a look at how this happens.

Providing Support To Get Unstuck

People are not always ready for change and are thereby not ready to be challenged. We support others in making a change by creating a space where they begin to see the opportunity for it and can move past their current situation. Supporting means helping others get unstuck.

Here’s an example of how a leader can provide support. A team member comes to you and says, “I don’t think there’s value in what I’m doing.” If you were to challenge that person, you might respond with something like, "What would you like to do to show value?” But if you support the person, you might say, “Why do you believe this to be true?”

In this case, which option sounds like a step in the right direction? I would suggest going with support. The person might not be ready to challenge themselves. They are stuck and questioning the value of their work and, as a leader, you should support them in exploring this feeling.

Here are two steps you can take to support change:

  1. Create a space where your team can speak without feeling any judgment.

  2. Help your team see progress, turn their roadblocks into learning experiences, and create opportunities for change.

Challenging To Move Forward

Challenging is useful when your report is ready to make a change but cannot find the clarity to explore possibilities. Some key approaches here would be to challenge their assumptions about their current situation and help them think about moving forward, further away from the past. Co-create a vision of what the result might look like. This can help them explore the steps to get there.

For example, if a team member asks you, “I would like to build a better relationship with my manager,” this is a wonderful opportunity to challenge. You may respond with something like, “What does a better relationship look like?”

This is effective because the desire to change already exists. In our first example, the desire was not there because the person was still stuck and not expressing readiness for change. In this scenario, your report is ready. They are prepared to seek ways to think and do differently to build a better relationship.

Here are two steps you can take when challenging for change:

  1. Provoke your report's thoughts with questions that challenge him/her to envision what they will do differently.

  2. Co-create solutions and actions with next steps, timelines and specificity — similar to SMART goals.

Final Thoughts

Recognizing opportunities for support versus challenge will help you navigate and explore the best possible outcomes for those you lead.

Perhaps one day you're leading a meeting and challenging your team to find an alternate solution to a problem. Your team lead doesn't seem to be on board, as he's detached from what you're saying. Could it be that he doesn't understand what the current problem is?

Pushing him to create a solution will quickly prove to be ineffective. However, if you can see that he is still stuck on the issue, you can move into support mode and coach him to get unstuck. If he understands the problem but isn't clear on what needs to happen to create the solution, you can move into challenge mode and coach him to develop actionable steps.

Next time you are in a situation where someone is seeking your guidance, listen to identify whether they need support to get unstuck or challenge to move forward. Let us know how this worked for you.

[Originally posted on Frobes]

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