In one of my favorite zen katas, the seeker of guidance journeys by boat, camel, and foot to Tibet, hikes deep into the mountains, and scales a sheer cliff to get an answer from the wise man. After he asks his question, he asks a second: “Master, why do you make it so hard to get an answer from you? Why not live some place easier for us to reach?”
The response: “Because here I speak only with people who really want an answer. If I lived in the village in the valley, I’d be tempted to give advice all the time and it would be worthless.”
And he’s right.
One of the challenges those of us with specialized training have is how to apply that training. Change management is particularly challenging because people either think, “Oh, that’s easy, we know how to do that, our training departments and store communications teams will just do what they always do.” Or they think: “Change Management!” and picture a wall reaching endlessly towards the sky, a wall they have no desire to scale.
It’s not that difficult, but it’s also not something most communications or training teams are already doing. A little insight, experience, and coaching goes a long way.
The question now is how to share these insights with clients.
One person I know sails into an organization and dictate to the client exactly what they need to do; then sails out again. She has a fan base and this approach works because she only comes in when one of these clients demands her attention. She doesn’t really care if they succeed or not and her canned presentation never varies. If the client fails, well, they must not have followed her strictures exactly.
Another person I know doesn’t have any presentations and rarely talks about change management as such. He listens intently to the client and then asks or says something short and thought-provoking, often at dinner. The client listens, then reflects in thoughtful silence for a few minutes while the conversation moves on around them, then leans in, asks a follow-up a question, and they’re off to the races. The conversation is casual, no decks, no guide books, no presentations. The client takes from it what they can. Recently we were listening to an executive sponsor talking about the lack of female role-models in positions of power in her organization. When she paused, he said her name, she looked at him, and he remarked simply that she was one of those women. She grew silent, her look reflective. Although her face was still, I could see her perspective change behind her eyes.
The second method is so much more effective in my opinion. It requires more thoughtful work, and you have to earn the right to share such insights by not pushing your wisdom on people.
The next question is how to get there.