By Per Mattsson, Certified Two-Brain Fitness Business Mentor
Have you ever presented your newest “super idea” or your new “fantastic project” and received zero response at a staff meeting?
I bet it felt like someone threw a wet blanket on your fire. Or maybe you felt like your staff members were unmotivated despite all the golden nuggets you dropped into their laps?
This is very common, and I think every leader has felt this way at some point.
As leaders, we sometimes forget that we are always one or even several steps ahead in the process of change. When you present your idea, you’ve already spent lots of time thinking about it. You’ve considered all the pros and cons, how the change will affect you, how it will affect your staff, and how it will affect all parts of your business. Your staff members haven’t done any of that yet.
Everyone goes through different phases when they deal with change, and everyone needs a different amount of time to adapt. Some people need to discuss with others to clarify their thoughts and sort through pros and cons, some people need to think alone, and some people just say “let’s go!” when they hear about new ideas.
Instead of getting frustrated with your staff for failing to celebrate your genius, make some changes in your leadership style to better prepare them and help them get on board.
We can learn a lot from great teachers. As a teacher and principal, I observed many amazing educators work really hard to help students who learned in different ways. Some kids need information in advance, some need visual aids like pictures and images, some need to study in advance, and so on.
Below, you’ll find some of the “classroom techniques” you can use to improve staff meetings and lead people through changes.
Send out information beforehand. Great teachers often assign homework in advance so it can be discussed in the classroom. That way students can be more active during lessons because they’ve had the chance to think before they are asked to discuss. I always try to share all the information that can be shared in advance with staff. This approach saves time because I don’t have to present everything at the meeting, and it also helps people who need more time to think. I always make sure to say, “This will be discussed in our meeting, so please hold your comments and thoughts until then.” A note like this prevents discussions or debates in our Facebook group, which is often not the right forum.
Try different ways of sharing information. I’ve started making lots of videos in which I explain things and share information with my staff. This can make it easier for some people to process information, and it’s often easier for me to explain concepts in a video instead of in text.
Many times the “quickest thinker” or most spontaneous person will speak first, which can limit the amount and the quality of responses you get. Unfortunately, the people who speak first are often also the most negative. Once again, a few methods can be borrowed from great teachers.
After presenting an idea, a project or information, tell people that they must think alone for 60 seconds before anyone can speak. After doing that, you listen to each and every person and take notes on a whiteboard. This is a very good way to get everyone to share thoughts before anyone “takes over” and you fall into a debate.
If you have a large group, an even better idea is to let everyone think alone, then put them into smaller groups where they share their thoughts. After that, let every small group share with the large group. In Swedish, we even have a word for this technique, which is often used in the classrooms of great teachers. We call it “EPA,” which is short for “ensam-par-alla”—translated to “alone-pairs-everyone.” In English, you can use the acronym “APE” to remind you of this technique.
When and if something turns into a discussion or debate, remember that you don’t always have to be the one who responds. If someone in the group is negative or skeptical about something, you could just say something like this: “I hear what you’re saying, Lisa, and I feel your frustration. What do the rest of you guys think about it?” By doing this, you can show the person that another in the group might think differently, which can often be more powerful than sharing your thoughts or arguments. Sometimes, the people who like to complain or resist think everyone else feels the same way. When you show them that’s not the case, it can be a powerful eye opener.
Learn, Then Lead
Helping people change perspective is important, and you do that by learning to be a good listener and asking questions.
My advice above is essentially a collection of pedagogical tricks that can be used to give people time to think. That will help you get more feedback and responses, and it will improve the quality of those responses.
Leading people through change is really about changing your mindset and understanding that you are always ahead in the thought process. If you understand that, then you will start using different methods to help your staff through change, and you will understand that it takes time for them to follow and catch up to you.