Sometimes it Takes a Well-Timed, Well-Placed Encounter with a Two-By-Four


Maybe you need an encounter with a well-placed two-by-four…

I was talking to a top-level business consultant. He is brought in to fix some small problems, some process problems, and sometimes, some big problems.

When the problem has a process fix, it is a matter of: take these steps, implement this process. It’s work; hard work. People resist such process changes. But, it is doable.

But, sometimes, the problem is really big. It is some version of this problem:

This person, at or near the top of the organization, needs to change his/her behavior in specific ways. In other words, actual change in the way people act and behave. We may call some of these kinds of changes “soft-skills” changes. But there is nothing soft about them. And they can make a huge difference.

So, I was asking this consultant, how do you get someone to make such a big change. Especially when this change may be related to a career-long (multi-year) weak spot. He acknowledged that sometimes, the person does not change. And unless he actually owns the company, that can be the beginning of the end.

two-by-fourAnd he said that in order to get them to change, you have to hit them with a great big two-by-four. (Note to reader – this is metaphorical). You have to really, really, really get their attention. And only when they say, “Yes, I in fact do have this problem” is there then any chance of change and progress.

In the ancient field of rhetoric, this is akin to the idea of stasis – you bring the person (the audience) to a standstill; a point at which they say “I can’t keep thinking, feeling, and/or acting this way.” (You know, Step 1 of the Twelve Steps…)

Until a person comes to that point, there is no chance for the needed change to come about.

And, if you study books about top leaders (Focus by Daniel Goleman is one such book), you learn that the higher up a person is in an organization, the less likely it is that someone can or will wield that two-by-four.

So, maybe what many leaders need is a good encounter with a well-placed and well-timed two-by-four. Which leaders have the guts to seek out such an encounter; or to even allow that encounter? And which leaders are lucky enough to have someone around them who will do the wielding?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s