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  • Writer's pictureMike Bensi

Change Starts with You

I had the opportunity to facilitate a executive team retreat recently with a group that was set to tackle big issues. They were experiencing big changes in their industry from various competitors and fast changing technology.

We spent the first half of the retreat identifying that not only did changes need to happen in how the organization worked, but more importantly, that they needed their people to change as well. The team identified forward looking ideas with really pretty whiteboard drawings to go alongside them. The team was excited.

The second half shifted to how the executive team would get it it done. And quickly went from forward-looking and positive to negative and punitive.

"We need to weed out the bad ones."

"We should penalize them for not doing what we need them to do."

And definitely no pretty whiteboard pictures.

I shared research in how punishing others and negatively reinforcing behaviors shuts people down. People are less likely to problem solve, create ideas, or change.

So the team pivoted and started sharing possible incentives for the team.

"Let's give them a bonus."

Until I reminded them that incentivizing others with rewards is only a short term solution and doesn't help create long lasting change.

The team was becoming less excited. And I began thinking that I wouldn't be invited back next year.

Before I could start packing up my things, the group identified that they hadn't shared the reason behind the change. Or how that change might be a way to draw people into something really big and cool - rather than the change being something to hide from.

The team went from focusing energy on all the reasons on why their team members should act to focusing their energy on the ways they could create the space for others to take action.

The whiteboard pictures still weren't as pretty as we started, but the team was moving forward on a better track. And they said I might get invited back next year.

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