Hello Everyone,
Half of 2013 is behind us. Have you completed half of your goals and objectives for 2013? Now is the time to review your plan, make adjustments and develop the Action Plans that make 2013 your best year ever. In my study of leadership I found that one of the key attributes of great leaders is their ability to influence, the ability to change minds. This month we look at some of the keys to changing minds.

Changing Minds:
Just How Hard Is It?

Changing people's behavior is the most important challenge for business leaders competing in unpredictable environments.

"The central issue is never strategy, structure, culture, or systems," asserts Dr. John P. Kotter, a retired Harvard Business School professor who specializes in leadership. "The core of the matter is always about changing the behavior of people."

Professor Howard Gardner, a lifelong researcher and expert on the mind, has identified seven levers that leaders must employ to change minds:

7 Levers to Change a Mind

    1. Reason: When we try to persuade others, reason plays a pivotal role. Most businesses rely on analysis and logical processes when making decisions: identifying relevant factors, weighing each in turn, and making an overall assessment.

    2. Research: The scientific approach collects relevant data and analyzes it in a systematic manner (often statistical) to verify or cast doubt on promising trends. (Note: Research needn't always be as formal.)

    3. Resonance: Appealing to one's feelings - and thus creating "emotional resonance" - is a powerful way to change minds. While one may hear reason and research arguments, change may occur on an unconscious level as one develops a connection to the mind-changer.

    4. Representational Redescriptions: A change of mind may rely upon utilizing several different modes that reinforce each other. For example, a PowerPoint presentation may present the same concept using percentages, bar graphs, and other graphic images, all of which explain the same key concept in distinct ways.

    5. Resources and Rewards: Mind-changing is sometimes more likely to occur when resources and rewards are made available (positive reinforcement). Ultimately, however, unless the new course of thought is congruent with reason, resonance, and research, it is unlikely to last beyond the provision of rewards.

    6. Real-World Events: Wars, terrorists, natural disasters, and economic depressions can influence mind-changing. On the positive side, so can prosperity and peace. It is easier to convince a nation to go to war after a terrorist attack, even when the facts are lacking.

    7. Resistances: It is unrealistic to assume that you won't encounter resistance - the strong force that negatively affects mind change. Research demonstrates that changing minds becomes more difficult with age; we develop strong views that are resistant to change. Any effort to understand the process of changing minds must take resistance into account.
A mind change is most likely to occur when the first six factors operate in concert, and when resistance is relatively weak. Conversely, a change of mind is unlikely to occur when resistances are strong and the other factors fail to point strongly in one direction.

Changing Minds in an Organization

Getting people to change their minds is harder still when you're working with large groups. Leaders will experience greater success when they follow five key approaches:

1.  The Power of Stories

Stories can be a key element in changing minds. In a story, you have a main character, ongoing activities to achieve a goal, a crisis, and a resolution.

Leaders must analyze the current situation, determine what needs to change, create a convincing narrative, and present it to those whose minds they hope to change. Success depends on the narrative's effectiveness, whether it is convincingly conveyed, and how leaders embody the presentation. The more personal and authentic the story, the more people will identify with common themes.

2.  The Power of Variety

One's level of familiarity with a concept determines how we successfully process and accept it. Delivering the same content in multiple forms is a powerful way to change people's minds. People must not only hear the message, but also see it - often in the form of images, graphs, and diagrams. Using more than one delivery method gives people an opportunity to form mental representations in their preferred learning mode.

3.  The Power of Resistance

When it comes to changing someone's mind, Gardner says, "The biggest mistake people make is not understanding the other's resistances." Each of us has ingrained beliefs, and we're committed to maintaining our opinions.

What never works when trying to change someone's mind is a direct assault on his or her point of view. When you go in determined to change someone, you're triggering defensiveness. Even the most eloquent argument is likely to fail if you lack insight about the person you're trying to sway. Once you understand someone's resistance, you can try to find a common solution.

4.  Appealing to Emotions

Emotional persuasion isn't taught in business schools, nor does it come easily.

According to Dr. George Lakoff, a professor of linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley, "Concepts are not things that can be changed just by someone telling us a fact. We may be presented with facts, but for us to make sense of them, they have to fit what is already in the synapses of the brain. Otherwise, facts go in and then they go right back out. They are not heard, or they are not accepted as facts."

Because of the way the brain learns, messages have a better chance of being retained when our emotional centers are engaged. When individuals experience a positive emotional resonance with the person trying to change their minds, they're more easily persuaded-a phenomenon that can occur even in the absence of reasonable facts to support change.

5.  The Power of Ongoing Communication and Support

Change feels more natural when you have participation and engagement at all levels. Introduce ideas into the mainstream without excessive use of authority. When more people can contribute to finding solutions, communicating well and helping each other, there is a better chance of achieving real behavioral change. Change initiatives are more likely to fail when there are no ongoing discussions or support.

In summary, changing minds is not easy, but there are clear methods for increasing the probability of effecting real behavioral change. Provision of coaching services is highly recommended to support change initiatives.

Final Thoughts:

Do you know someone who would like to change some minds? Please forward this newsletter to them. If you know someone who would like to experience coaching, my offer of a free coaching session is always available. Just give me a call or drop me a note.
Coach Jerry

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Jerry Pinney

For the last twenty-two years Jerry Pinney has been president of his own consulting firm. Currently he focuses his efforts on providing executive and personal coaching to persons who are interested in improving their quality of life and consulting to small and mid-sized companies and nonprofits. He is a facilitator for peer advisory groups with The Alternative Board and is a Certified One Page Planning Consultant. Jerry has over three decades of experience in the food industry, and possesses a unique perspective of customer service, marketing and strategic planning. In addition to overall general management qualifications, Jerry has proven expertise in operational planning and business development. His food industry career started at Jewel Food Stores followed by a long career with IGA, with their retailers, wholesalers and ten years as Vice President of Marketing. In addition Jerry has served as Vice President of Membership for the National Grocers Association, Sr. Vice President of Procurement for Shurfine International and Executive Manager of The Zenon Hansen Foundation.

Jerry has also served on a number of nonprofit boards including: President of the Volunteer Center of Northwest Suburban Chicago. He is currently a Project Manager for the Executive Service Corps of Chicago. Jerry’s ESC assignments have included coaching for several Executive Directors, and consulting on various Board Development projects and on a number of strategic planning projects.

Jerry Pinney & Associates
102 East 32nd Street
Chicago, IL,
phone: 312-842-4577,
fax: 312-842-4705

e-mail me by clicking here


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