Sparking change in an organization — classroom, school, school district, state or nation — sometimes can feel like a Sisyphean task, rolling a heavy stone up a hill only for it to roll down before reaching the summit.
Best-selling author Daniel Pink offered educators — gathered for ASCD’s first general session at the 2014 annual conference in Los Angeles — a different lens to view their work as leaders and change makers.
“A big part of what we do as leaders, as teachers, is move people. At some level you’re actually selling things. You’re selling ideas. You’re selling content,” Pink said. “In order for you to be effective, your effectiveness is built on your ability to move people from point A to point B.”
Pink shared with conference attendees six research-based strategies to help lead change.
1. Reduce feelings of power to better understand others’ perspectives. Take time to recalibrate your feelings of power before asking someone to do something. This technique will help leaders better understand others’ perspectives and perhaps their resistance to making a change.
2. Be the best version of yourself. Don’t try to be what you might picture as the ideal extrovert sales person. When you’re trying to sell a new idea, be the best version of yourself. Individuals in the middle of the introvert/extrovert spectrum — known as ambiverts — tend to have more success in sales. Most of the population falls into this middle and so most of us have the native ability to do this.
3. Use interrogative self talk. Positive, affirmative self talk is better than going into a meeting neutral, but there is a third option: interrogative self talk. Positive self talk is helpful, but shifting positive, affirmative statements like: You can do this! to interrogative statements like: Can you do this? creates a pathway for planning and preparation because such questions elicit an active response.
4. Ask two irrational questions: On a scale of 1 to 10, how ready are you to do XYZ? Why didn’t you pick a lower number? This technique is based on motivational interviewing in which you try to unlock intrinsic motivation. It can help get people invested in projects. When they are invested in the reasons for doing something, they are more likely to care about the end product.
5. Give people an off ramp. Give more specifics, a blueprint for accomplishing what you want them to do to. Sometimes changing people’s minds is less important than making it easy for people to act. Ask yourself if there is an off ramp for people to act, and if not, build one.
6. Go beyond how. Explain why. Help people understand the purpose for what they are doing, not by dangling a carrot or threatening or bribing. When we try to change people’s behavior, we often talk about how you do it, and while that it is important, we need to consider why: Why does it even matter? This is in many ways the cheapest performance enhancement tool you have at your disposal. Have two fewer conversations about how and two more about why. Turn it into a why conversation.
Stay turned for more coverage of the ASCD annual conference.
Melissa Greenwood is SmartBrief’s senior education editor, with responsibility for the content in a variety of SmartBrief’s education briefs. She also manages content for SmartBlog on Education and related social media channels. Prior to joining SmartBrief, Melissa held a variety of positions in the education field, including classroom teacher and education editor and writer.