We need to see and feel the change. Why is this important for leaders and how to practically implement it?

Extract from an interview with Paul Rigby after delivering Bee Ready For Change, Bee Engaged and Bee A Great Leader workshops. If you wish to see the interview instead of reading this page please click here

In order for any change to be effective a great leader should ensure that there is emotional and rational buy-in from the team.  Hence we say, see and feel the change.

For effective change we need to win over as many people as possible.  Major change needs at least a 75% majority.  I think 75% is the tipping point.  To help achieve this tipping point, I often use the concept of the elephant, the rider and the path. Emotions are powerful. Emotions are a dominant driver of most meaningful life decisions. In the elephant, rider, path example, the elephant equates to the emotional side of decision making. The rider is the rational. The third part of the equation is the vision – where we are going – this is the path.

Elephant – emotional. Rider – rational. Path – direction.

Nothing really happens without the elephant. Business leaders tend to ignore this important part of the equation which is why change efforts often do not reach their level of expectation. In the elephant, rider, path example, a great leader sets a crystal clear vision (the path) so that employees know exactly where they are going. Which reminds me of the quote “great leadership is the ability to translate vision into reality”.  Great leaders also focus on the elephant because they know that nothing happens without involving the emotional side of the business. Then they combine the elephant and path with a rational thought process – the rider. What I have found in numerous workshops in different countries in different cultures is that one thing is common – people tend to focus on the rider and path and pay little attention to the elephant. Remember the elephant.

Now that we have the elephant, rider and the path (we can see and feel the change), we need to focus on communication.  We have teamed up with BigPicture Learning.  Why did we do this?  Because this is an excellent concept of “see – feel the change”.  It clearly demonstrates the “elephant, rider, path” concept.

Let’s use the example of safety.  If an organisation is really serious about safety as a key value and key element of its culture, then leaders need to live and breathe safety every day – and everyone must be involved in safety.  All employees should attend formal training but what really solidifies the learning is when they see and feel the concept.  Using the BigPicture  Learning concept, we develop a large picture filled with bespoke or customised ideas relevant to the project.  This does not replace training – it enhances it.  We portray this in a game or as a vision board.  In either case the objective is to discuss what the employees see and feel about the subject. What we have seen is a dramatic improvement in positive behaviour towards, for example, safety or a dramatic improvement in the understanding of the vision or strategy or whatever it is the client wishes to communicate.

Statistics show that approximately 30% of people understand what you are saying first time.  The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion it has taken place.

Frequently people are guarded in what they say in conversation or during training – or they might not talk in depth about the situation.  In the BigPicture Learning game we customise  scenario cards which encourage conversation about the topic being discussed. We call out individuals to tell of personal experiences and knowledge or thoughts and give employees “permission to talk” about what is on their mind – what they think and understand about the subject.

Putting something like the safety game and question cards in the middle of the group helps employees think about and talk about, what may be difficult to articulate, so the images and ideas often help employees gain clarity and will allow them to discuss and possibly change their behaviour. If I can see it and feel it, I will probably buy into it and do it.From experience we have found that the game concept or the big picture poster reduces anxiety and defensiveness – making scenarios easier to discuss.If you want effective change engage your employees. In order to engage your employees, communicate in way that allows them to see and feel the change and to understand where they are going and how they will get there.

Elephant, Rider, Path. If I can see it, if I can feel and if I can understand where you want me to go, I will buy into it and the probability of successful change increases dramatically because more people will understand it first time.That is great for change, great for employee engagement and great for improving business results.