“A colleague of mine spoke at a big leadership conference many years back. It was one of these big things where they had ex-presidents, Jack Welch and other big names and leaders. The people attending the conference had an evaluation sheet to determine the speaker with the most impact. The person who won, with by far the most votes, was Mother Theresa. She just happened to be in town that week so the conference organizers asked her to stop by and say a few words at the end of the conference. She listened for a while to all of these leaders of major corporations, talking and talking about how do we change our people? How can we get them to focus on results?
“At the end Mother Teresa went up to the podium and said something like ‘I don’t know much about leadership, but I do know this. You want to change your people? Do you know them? And, do you love them? If you don’t know them and you don’t love them, you are not going to change them.’”
Contrast this with another method of inspiring people to change that I heard recently: “I go into organizations and I tell it like it is. I don’t pull any punches. I tell people that its a miracle that they’re still employed. I’ve made people cry!”
(Why making people cry is something to be proud of is a mystery to me. Though this is not the only time I’ve heard someone say that with a bit of prideful swagger.)
Threats and denigration usually lead to defensiveness–and maybe surface compliance to reduce threats and pressure.
In my experience, people change to save something they value. They change when they feel they can learn the new way–they’ll have the time, resources, and training.
And they change more readily when they have a positive relationship with the person asking them to change.