Make sure you can see their eyeballs

I've been thinking a lot lately about the knots organisations tie themselves in, trying to get people to change their behaviour. There are gazillions of articles and text books on this subject, all manner of online groups, forums and think-tanks. It's the most complex thing in the world, and it's also the most simple.

I once was put in a position where I had to manage a merger in an organisation. Not a big deal, I thought, it just means a group of people now sit in a different part of the business. End of story - or so I believed.

What I totally didn't factor in was the incredible emotional attachment those people had to where they worked. I also made the mistake of relying on email for most of my communication with them - they were in a different building, after all.

What a disaster that turned out to be! Those staff didn't want the change. They didn't know me from a bar of soap so they didn't trust me at all. Their supervisors sabotaged my emails, forwarded my messages around with extra bits added. I lost control of the information.

It all came to a horrible head at a staff meeting, when one long-standing member of the team had an emotional melt-down right in front of me and everyone else. It was an awful, traumatic experience for all concerned.

There were all sorts of other factors at play in this situation that I won't go into here. But it all comes down to this: change is about people. If we want someone to do something differently, we've got to find out what makes them tick, deep down inside. If we can somehow find a connection there, and help them come to see that the new way will actually be better for them than the status quo, there might be a slight chance that you'll see a shift in behaviour.

When you're staring down the barrel of a crunch time, always factor in the human element. Don't just push information out by email. Make sure you can see people's eyeballs, and talk to them person to person. It's not rocket science, or fancy formula. It's just a simple conversation, but it's your best hope