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Creating business transformation and market growth
Heinz Kohut, noted 20th century psychologist and behaviorist, gave us insight into leading people to change.
He, along with his colleagues and peers, found the old adage to be true: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”
Unfortunately, many managers and leaders don’t believe this. As a result, too many leaders and managers promote their thinking, their solutions, their products, their perspective and dump it on the listener expecting them to hear, accept and adopt their proposition.
People don’t do this.
While its true that when people respect a leader who has demonstrated success they give more credence to the proposition, they do not simply accept and adopt it. For them to accept and adopt the proposition it must make sense to them, and fit into their own view of the world.
Kohut came face to face with the reality that for people to change, people have to WANT to change and arrive at their own conclusions about the why, how and what. With this as a premise, he identified a sequenced series of interactions that can lead a person to want to change, accept a proposition and make a sustainable change.
Simplistically, he set out three conditions or interactions that must be established.
- Common structure –
- This condition references a shared environment. In Kohut’s view a structure could take many forms. It could be a physical space like a room or gym, a social structure like a family or community, or an organizational structure like a business culture, club or a academic institution.
- Kinship/Twinship –
- Kinship is a shared life experience. Whether constructive or destructive, we have had an experience, emotion, elation or frustration that we can observe in another and resonates with us. Empathy is a natural result.
- Trust and trial –
- When one has arrived at the truth about the situation, frustrated and in pain, we begin to seek a solution from someone else who has had a similar experienced. Thus, a common structure provides a way to discuss the influences causing the dissatisfaction, and kinship provides the empathy from another opening the door for me to ask, “what would you do.” That trust provides the basis for action – emotional and cognitive –to relieve the frustration with another’s potential solution.
His research and life work proved this out – change can occur when people are led through these steps.
Trust, then is built through this process, to the point where the individual trusts that you, the leader, has a proposition that works for them, solving their problem.
The implications for leaders and marketers is clear. Intuitive sales people have known it all along: Before you can provide a solution, you make sure the prospect knows you understand his problem, that you have experienced similar situations and that your proposition worked for you, and can work for them.
These stages of trust building are essential for moving anyone to make a change. The greater the impact of the change, the deeper the process and the more time required to establish that trust.
I have distilled Kohut’s approach into The Four Stages of TrustSM.
- Shared values (common structure)
- Shared vision (Kinship/twinship)
- Assumed responsibility (trust and trial)
- Always delivering on your promise (trial success)
Anytime change is proposed, trust is required. Building this trust always is built upon these four stages whether intentional or intuitively communicated.
Of course, the more intentional a leader or marketer can be about this process, the faster and deeper the trust can be established, trial created, leading to change for good.
So you’re talking with a stranger and as you begin to talk, you realize the parallels in your life. You were here, doing this. He was in a different place doing something similar. You attended this concert, and he attended the same event in a different city. You share some of the same likes and preferences. It’s amazing!
This values to values connection is deeply rooted as an intuitive part of our psyche. It is a “scent” we give to others in conversation, appearance, mannerisms that allows people to quickly learn about us, connect and build friendships. And if these values go deep and wide, the connection can last a lifetime. Of course, when we’re out of sync with another, you can’t leave the room fast enough.
We learn to trust another when the fundamental values we hold sync with another. When they break down, we question, judge and limit the relationship.
Similarly, as a brand or organization, the values we project are revealed in our programs, products, our sales people, channel partners, our service reps, our communications, advertising, websites and social media—all hints to our customers and the broader world of who we REALLY are.
Managing these perceptions is ultimately the job of the CEO. Trust in the company, its leaders, its vision of the future, and its investments in people, products, programs and innovation provide a “scent” and reveal the true heart of the company. Prospects and customers may lock up and become a friend for life, or may not like what they observe and just purchase and move on.
The power to build lifelong customer advocates is based on the CEO’s values and his or her ability to articulate them and expected associated behaviors, drive them through the organization, out the door and engage customers with similar values on their front porch.
This is the power of connection -- the fundamental cornerstone of shared values that create trust and reliance between people, and create glue and advocacy between people and the brands they love.
Values are the ground-zero of decision making. We purchase based on what we value. We sacrifice time, money and resources to have what we value.
Values are the heart motivation that cause people to make choices and take action. They are based on beliefs or ideals about what is good or or bad and desirable or undesirable. Values can be lasting and intrinsic, such as the inherent value of life, friendship, community. They can also be secondary, or learned and adaptive values such as wealth, mobility, or fitness. Values inform us in the decisions we make influencing our purchases, attitudes, behaviors. Values can change over time and across a lifetime. For example, the values an adolescent holds may be very different from the values the same person holds as an eighty year old.
Intrinsic values, like the preservation of life for example, can also be twisted, impacted by another’s beliefs, behavior and actions. An abusive parent, can twist a child’s perspective of the value of their life, impacting their a natural respect for another. A terrorist may be willing to trade his life and murder others based on a desirable future in an unknown afterlife, all this influenced by another teacher or mentor.
Politicians have an ability to project certain values that resonate with others in society, attracting them to their cause. These shared values, generate a shared vision of what could be, driving people to choose and support them.
Ultimately, as business leaders we are in the business of serving our customers, helping them choose products and services that bring life and health. Anything other than this is hedonistic, existential and hopeless.
As marketers and communicators dedicated to serve our customers, we must focus on understanding both the timeless and changing values of our target audiences. We must focus on how our products and services actually reinforce these life-giving values inherent in everyone.
Classic selling of product or service features and benefits is shiny-object selling -- trendy and short-lived. Great companies make a values-to-values connection creating deep engagement, trust, loyalty, and advocacy.