Don’t use your A game just yet
I can’t hear you for COVID19
LinkedIn is flooded with ‘cool’ new products and services, Twitter is ‘singing’ songs of online learning, web based applications and even Facebook is filled with parents doing ‘amazing’ things with their kids. Now I will say up front I think this is great, however my concern is…
….you may all be using your A GAME before anybody is actually ready to hear you. The value of your amazing product/services (or parental activities) may sadly be missed because clients/kids are in ‘action’ mode!
Lots of doing, with good thinking but maybe thinking which is related to the ‘now’ and not the ‘near’ or ‘not so near future’. So my advice… wait a little. Get your story right, allow peoples thinking to settle and time your hello for when people a ‘ready to hear’ YOU.
Timing your hello to be heard!
So the science on this is not exact in anyway, but I have found ‘Bridges Transitions Model’ a useful thinking tool in considering what my engagement with clients may look like…
The image below (courtesy of Daniel Lock Consulting) provides quite a nice ‘state’ based depiction as to how people may be (what they are thinking/feeling) during COVID19. This image is a visual of William Bridges ‘Transitions Model’ first published in 1991 and still valuable today.
The reason I have chosen this model to share is because it is focused on whats happening within people, how they are thinking/feeling as they go through change. Whilst change in this case has been forced upon us (COVID19) how we respond to it (an internal process) is under our control.
“Change hits us in the face often at spreed, whilst transitions take a pace relevant to our processing of the context”
What might consultants consider at each stage..
Stage 1: Endings
The ending of what we knew before, the old world has gone. Whilst some elements still remain such as the people we work with (but may be less of them) the systems and processes we used before do not work in this COVID19 world. Change has ended what we knew….
Some resistance may be present, but thats normal – just don’t push to hard with an idea, sale or even offer of support. There will be:
- Anger – the noise of looking to see who’s at fault will cloud judgment so find ways to share that blame wont help
- Denial – its not happening, well at least not to me – this requires open and honest conversations
- Fear – what will tomorrow look like, calm is needed here to put people at ease, that may actually be to agree that we dont know?
- Sadness – lost jobs and friends, have empathy for context (professional and personal)
Key here is to accept that this change is happening and the decisions around the level of change (social isolation etc) are being set by others. So trying to control for this may be a fruitless task.
In communicating with clients focus on helping people be ‘ok’ with their own working context as it is now. It will help to remind people of what they are good at, ask what more they can offer that we don’t know, which could now be an asset to the company.
Stage 2: Neutral Zone
So yes productively has dropped partly because its taken time to get used to new systems, ways of working and ‘the tech’. I’m in my 40’s and whilst was born in an era of computers I do find ‘app’ based working confusing at times. Imagine if this is fully new to a client or their workforce (the volume and multiple platforms).
That said we are turning the tide, accepting our context and people are detaching from the old world… yet they are:
- Confused – caught between the old and the new, trying to hold on to patterns of the past but for a different future
- Disorientated – I know where I am, but I dont know where anything is or how to find it quickly, help in reducing anxiety is a must here
- Frustration – because I can’t bloody work this machine or find the button, slow the pace of working, focus on one thing at a time
- Apathetic – periods of ‘just doing the job’, a loss of care, so try focus on their purpose within the bigger picture (their value point)
Your offer here should focus on ‘direction’ – I can help you get there (wherever there is!). Quick wins will lift moral, workloads may feel higher as its taking more time to do stuff so if you can speed up work for people. Help them find ways to give themselves and others ‘patients’. Septics will raise their hands at this point, ‘I told you so’ may be heard. However creativity and innovation may well spark up as people are encouraged to ‘find ways around things’….
Stage 3: New Beginnings
Yes it will come, these new beginnings spell a new mood in camp. One of positivity and future opportunity. Surviving the challenge of COVID19 will positively feed into the life of the organising and offer strength for what has been achieved (and what can be achieved in the future). Acceptance is high as people embrace the new world order. People are
- Excited – ideas may be flowing embrace these, but don’t loose focus on what needs to be done to sustain the organisation
- Energised – energy is growing, with some it may be quite high. Manage this to get the most from it, but let people replenish too
- Committed – those who made it through to the other side will have a higher level of commitment to the organisation, value this
- Learningful – building new skills, people may have shifted job roles and now its time to bed-down whats needed to continue in the role.
Sustaining this will now be your challenge, I would advice working with clients to plan for a rise and fall in all of the above. We cannot peak all year round. Like elite athletes people will need a rest, down time and further transitions will inevitably occur as the world around people changes. But perhaps these can now be planned for…get back onto long term, contingency, continuity planning etc. Oh and this is probably time for a party so if you do that, plan for the best gathering ever!!
Timing – Plastic Surgery, Habits and Moving Home
So back to that timing thing – when do you say hello. As I said this is not an exact science, there are no magic numbers but the best ‘educated guesses’ out there come from random places….
- Plastic Surgery – Work done in the 1950 by Maxwell Maltz a plastic surgeon seem to suggest that it would take 21+ days to get used to a new nose. Now notice the plus in ‘21+’ days and this is about getting comfortable with a ‘new face’, so be careful not to apply this blindly. However if you were to push me I’d say stage 1: Endings will last 30 days, so probably take us up to middle/late April 2020.
- Habit Formation – Research done by Phillippa Lally et al of University College London in 2009 (How Habits are Formed: Modelling Habit formation in the Real world) seems to suggest that it would take 2 months (66 days) to form a new habit. So perhaps stage 2: Neutral Zone will take us up to middle/late May 2020.
- Moving Home – An ‘in-depth research of UK homebuyers’ by Tepilo using a UK wide sample of 2,001 homebuyers found that it takes on average four months for a new house to feel like home. So maybe it will take us around 4 months to truly feel at home with this new normal. Therefore does that take stage 3: New Beginnings out to June/July 2020.
Yes this is a bit anecdotal, I don’t pretend otherwise. At the very least its a barometer to use as a scaffold for timing your conversation. We all develop a liking for something new, build a new habit or feel at home at different paces so take this with a pinch of salt.
The key is when you do engage with clients – ask GOOD questions to figure out where they, their team and their clients are…what stage are they in… when you know this you can offer a better service.
“Offer clear solution to meet the phase people are in, what you offer early in the transitions may well be quite different to what you offer later and save your A game for when you really want to be heard!”
I’ve been collecting a list of ‘client questions’ that may be used at each stage. If I were to put them here it would make this blog massively wordy so if you want them just give me a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Closing – Readiness to hear within COVID19
You may be communicating but can people hear… Don’t be confused, people are not lost, they are in flux. A state of movement and we need to give people time to ‘locate’ themselves within this new context. Things are disorientating because they are between a previous known and a future unknown.