One of my mentors advised me to always consider what people’s motivations might be for how they behave in a given situation – to ask where they are coming from, and why I think they are acting the way they are. This is especially important when driving an organizational change because there will ALWAYS be some form of resistance.

Often, if I take the time to step back and ask what motivates the resistor, instead of just reacting to how they are behaving, I am able to determine the best way to see the world through their eyes, and come up with a strategy to get them to see my point of view as well (or at least not become as frustrated when we don’t see eye to eye).

2 Examples

  1. I was meeting with a senior IT executive after having hosted a meeting with him and a business CEO that had not gone well. The day before, the business CEO had asked why, if it was going to cause a more negative experience for her call center representatives, she should embrace a new technology that she had not asked for, and now was being asked to pay for.
    • The IT executive asked about the CEO’s motivation for change and whether the technology team had done a good job of selling to the CEO and her operations teams the exciting enhancements they will experience once they move to the new technology.
    • It turned out the CEO had only heard the negative aspects of the change, and the team creating the enhanced technology had not spent any time with her or herĀ  leadership team to explain why the change was important or how it would improve their business in the long term.
    • The CEO was not necessarily trying to prevent the change; from her perspective no one had actually made the case for change to give her a chance to assess whether it would be a good idea.
    • Once we understood her motivations, we were able to create an action plan to present the case for change and address all of her concerns.
  2. A new Finance executive was assigned to a program I was working on. He was much more engaged than his predecessor, and asked questions that had not been previously asked of my team. The program manager leading the effort asked my opinion of the executive, as he was not sure whether the Finance person’s motivations were to help or hinder our program.
    • I took a step back and reflected on a key phrase the Finance person had used in 2 meetings over the previous 2 days: The Finance person wanted to know whether there were named, dedicated IT resources assigned to all of the projects we were planning to deliver next year. In both instances, he said he was asking this because he wanted to make sure that IT was setting us up for success, and that we would not make commitments that IT would not be able to deliver against next year.
    • By repeatedly asking the above question, the Finance person was not trying to be argumentative or delay our program (or cause additional work); he was truly trying to understand whether the changes we were committing to on paper would actually be able to be met. His motivation was trying to ensure we were going to be successful.
    • In this case, my program manager realized the Finance resource was not just being a pain in the butt (as the program manager had first thought), and determined that this person would be a strong ally to help us build the detailed plan for the following year.

About Michelle Smeby

Michelle Smeby is CEO of wHolistic Change, Inc. with more than 10 years of experience implementing enterprise solutions at Fortune 100 companies. Michelle specializes in helping corporations deliver transformational change.
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2 Responses to Motivations

  1. registered nurse says:

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  2. Michelle Smeby says:

    Thank you for the kind comment! We hope people find our blog posts useful.

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