I f someone told you that 2+2=5 you would probably say, “No way!” It’s the response of a normal brain when it encounters an idea, plan or directive that goes against a firmly held worldview. Likewise, when a customer, salesperson or friend tells you that some aspect of your retail business model, or your thinking is ill advised, it can almost hurt. Few people like to be told they are wrong. The same is true when you tell members of your team, your salespeople and managers that from here on in you plan to change the way they perform their jobs.
Those of you who read the article in the January/February issue of Furniture World about Gallery Furniture, will remember what Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale experienced when he told his salespeople that he had decided to make a move from paying sales commission to salary.
“When we made the change from commission to salary,” he noted, “a lot of the hotshot salespeople who were making lots of money left, they didn’t want to be a part of this new thing. Many of my friends in the furniture business told me I was crazy, that it would be the ruination of Gallery Furniture.”
This is an example of how brains are hardwired to react in certain ways to maintain individual identity. So, it’s not surprising that when someone comes up against an idea like 2+2=5, their ego will initiate feelings that make them want to deny and retract.
People generally resist anything that is out of their normal comfortable worldview. Note that I did not say, “worldview that is great” or even “worldview that is good”. Brains are hardwired to maintain the status quo, good or bad. As I often say to clients, “The status quo is not great, it’s not even good. But you know how to do it.” Knowing how to do it is comfortable. That is why furniture retailers often do the same things over and over again even though the results they say they desire don’t materialize.
The purpose of this article is to give you tools that can be used to convince your team of managers and associates to give 110 percent support to your vision, even if it’s a 2+2=5 proposition that may not be easy or comfortable for them to accept.
As a business owner, high level exec, or store manger, understanding how brains work (yours and theirs), will make it easier to create the movement in your business that alludes you. So, if you are pitching a new plan for your business or a 2+2=5 paradigm, there are two main elements to consider. These are effectively communicating your goals, and then motivating your team.
Helping your team “get it” starts with your ability to communicate goals in a way that everyone can understand and feel comfortable implementing.
I am not talking about cheerleading. There has to be something in it for them if you want to motivate people to take action. If you try to convince people to work toward a goal without this element, you will only get about 50% effort. If, on the other hand, they believe in your idea and are positioned to get a personal reward, they will become fully invested.
It is easy to see if your people fully support your ideas by simply listening carefully to them. Are they making excuses? Are they complaining? Are they sitting there listening to you with a “deer in the headlights” look on their faces? These are indications that they don’t get it yet. This is resistance in action. So, how do you penetrate their worldview so you can move them from stuck mode into forward motion mode?
It is not as hard as you think. But before you can move forward, consider that getting your team members to accept your ideas and plans has a great deal to do with trust. Do your people believe that you have their back? If you want to motivate them to move forward, they need to believe that you are a leader they can trust to take on the sticky issues that will arise. This is a good time to ask yourself if your team can trust you. If not, you may need to address this issue before going forward.
If there is an atmosphere of trust, communicating your goals, your plans, and your strategy to those who will help you achieve what you want doesn’t have to be scary. Let’s go back to 2+2= 5 rule. Often the new goals you set will be viewed as unattainable. I can hear your team talking at the back of the store lamenting about how you must be out of your mind if you think that goal can ever be reached. If your goal is especially challenging, and I hope it is, the resistance will be high.
So, if your coworkers are resistant to changing a behavior or achieving a goal that seems out of reach, just call it out. Say, “what I am about to say may sound like 2+2=5, which of course on the surface makes no sense. However, I want you to consider that there is a point of view that makes it right. I want you to consider it.” This can be the beginning of making a crack in a belief system to let the idea seep in. The brain wants to make sense of everything. When you make this statement it gives your associates a chance to pause and think before rejecting the idea. And now, you have also created curiosity. Curiosity is so much better than resistance and anger. Curiosity is openness at its best. When we are curious, we are leaning in, we are focusing and open to what is coming next.
Motivate your team
Motivation is complicated. There are many factors that determine why a person is motivated to do something. The main reason is that they want to. Carrots and sticks work for menial tasks, not the kinds of productivity you want from your people. So how do you get your people to “want to”? Understand that each member of your team wants the same thing, but by their own definition. So, how do you approach this issue skillfully?
To begin with, everyone wants autonomy. The freedom to make choices and decisions about work and how it is done is critical. The amount of autonomy each member of your team wants will vary. Give thought to which of your employees thrive on lots of autonomy as well as the ones who need more structure. Also consider what autonomy looks like in your store and how that concept might reconcile with goals such as delivering a consistent experience to each customer.
Another factor in motivating people is the opportunity to grow. Most job descriptions include a sentence about career advancement. That is not what I am talking about. I am referring to the personal fulfillment kind of growth. Where do you people have the chance to become engaged with self-growth? Everyone has the desire to do better; to learn more, which translates into having more to offer. Do you know your employees well enough to know their hidden talents? Do you offer them the opportunity to find their own hidden talents themselves?
The best way to find a hidden talent is to allow your staff the autonomy to try new tasks. Let me give you a personal example. When I worked in a furniture showroom, I was just one of the salespeople sitting and waiting for my next “up” to walk thru the door. One day a manufacturer’s rep offered an incentive program to sell his line of leather furniture. I love leather. I went at that challenge like a chicken on a June Bug, surprising myself about how much I learned and what I knew about leather furniture within a month’s time. In the end, the rep compensated me well for my effort and I became the go-to person in the store about everything leather. Not only that, I stepped up to help co-workers and became an unique asset to the store. And because I felt fulfilled personally, I gave 110% effort.
When we talk about motivation, there is nothing more powerful than purpose. The “why” behind what we are doing. “Why” will cancel the 2+2=5 rule. If I can understand why 2+2=5, and make it meaningful to myself, I can jump on board with you.
Suppose your goal is to increase sales by 10% each month for the next six months. That’s a big job. Your staff will resist if they don’t believe it is possible. All of the structure you put around this project will be useless unless you get buy-in from everyone. Your job is to provide the vision and the why of that vision. For a more on how to get to the “Why?” of your business check out the last installment in this series on the furninfo.com website at http://furninfo.com/Authors/ Karen_Florence/26. Once you get people leaning in and curious, start asking them for help. “What would you do if you were me? If this was your goal, how would you make this happen?” Engage your team and watch their hidden talent rise up.
Watch how they will grab onto your “Why” if it is compelling. When people are engaged and committed to the “Why”, given the autonomy to try new things in an empowering positive environment, there is no telling where you will go. That deer in the headlights look will turn into the face of satisfaction.
In your business, where do you give your people opportunity in autonomy, self growth and purpose? The more room you make for these three very important aspects of your employees’ work life, the more they will embrace any 2+2=5 challenge you can dream up.
Karen Florence is a Certified Professional Coach and founder of Tabula Rasa Coaching, a coaching firm that specializes in transformational coaching for individuals as well as organizations. She works with people who want to explore their lives in a deeper way to create change in their personal, business and spiritual challenges.
Karen has worked with CEO's and high level executives around the world, coaching, mentoring and consulting. She has worked one-on-one with executives from Pierce Global Promotions, Pinnacle Foods, Jaguar Land Rover, The Disney Channel, BBDO Russia, New York Life, The St. Croix Foundation, Volvo Italia, Prudential Life, Intel and The Learning Channel among others.
When working with Karen, clients’ lives change. With her unique way of digging for the truth and finding the answers within her clients, doors open and circumstances change. Karen's keen intuition and curiosity often helps the truth to bubble up in surprising ways, allowing her clients to see themselves as whole and resourceful individuals moving forward into all that is possible.
Questions about this article or related to her consulting practice can be directed to Karen Florence at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 610.228.4145.
Read other articles by Karen Florence