I met with Michelle Kinder, the Executive Director of the Momentous Institute in Dallas. She leads a pretty remarkable group in their school and therapy centers to work with kids who are often starting behind due to poverty, toxic stress or trauma.
So, we were talking about how to know “how we are doing now,” and what needs to change?, and out flowed some pretty simple, clear, and profound wisdom from Michelle’s experiences..
She said we have to ask
”Is it working?”
And then, regarding the part that is not working, we have to ask:
Why is it not working?
And then, when we identify what isn’t working, we need to ask:
What do we do to fix this?
(Note: the emphasis was on “we” in this sentence. “What do we need to do to fix this?).
Let’s call this the ongoing evaluation challenge. We have to always be asking, “is it working?” And, there is always a pretty good chance that, in some measure, something isn’t quite working, and so we ask, “Why is this not working?” And then, “How de we fix this?”
Then she told a wonderful story. They have now conducted two Changing the Odds Conferences (this year will be their third), and in the middle of the first one, a woman who serves in a prominent and influential position left one session, visibly shaking, and rushed to make a call. She called a key member of her team, and said: “I’ve been doing this all wrong.” So, she took what she learned, and went to work to jettison the “doing it wrong” approach to start “doing it right.” I’d call this a full-fledged paradigm shift.
By the way, a good conference can be a great “is it working, why isn’t it working, what do I do to fix this” exercise. You know, “when the student is ready, the teacher (teachers) will appear…”
There is a concept called stasis. When you think of stasis in the “persuasion” context, it describes the need to bring an audience, or an audience member, to a point of “standstill.” At this moment of standstill, the person says to himself/herself “I can’t keep thinking this way. And I can’t keep acting this way.” When this happens, and only when this happens, is a person ready to make needed changes. Call this the pre-persuasion step. Before you can persuade, the person has to say “I’ve really got to make a change here.” Bringing a person to that point is incredibly difficult, and an absolute precursor to any genuine persuasion.
This process can bring you to that critical point of stasis, and then lead you to a strategy to move from stasis to new, needed action.
So, here are your phrases, from the wisdom of Michelle Kinder:
Is it working?
Why isn’t it working?
What can we do to make it work?
I’ve been doing this all wrong – time for a major change!
I bet you’re doing something (or more than one thing) wrong in your work. You’ve probably got some figuring out work to do. You’ve got some people you work with who could probably benefit from going through this process with you. What are you waiting for?