Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Apple Farmer: How To Be A Transformational Leader


By: Brian O'Keefe, Corporate Storyteller - Articulus Inc.


Imagine being an apple farmer at harvest time. You have a unique challenge: how to pick the fruit and move it to market without bruising it. You have to move your product from the field to a warehouse for shipping; yet, you know there’s a high risk of damage in doing so. And this damage will lower the value of the fruit. The challenge becomes effective mobilization with the least amount of bruising.


In many ways, leadership in business requires the same mobilization methods as the apple farmer.You’re often tasked with mobilizing people to achieve new company goals; but driving change almost guarantees there’ll be damage to your most important asset: your employees. The challenge is to move people forward with the least amount of damage. That means working to: 
  • limit friction and upheaval
  • reduce negativity
  • control the rumor mill
  • facilitate employee morale
  • gain full enrollment on your initiatives and ideas

Think of your company/group/department as a family. Therapist Virginia Satir (known as the “Mother of Family Therapy”) once said,

“The will to survive is not the strongest instinct in human beings.

The strongest instinct in human beings is to do what is familiar.”


However, in a business setting, the only way to progress as a team or a company is through continuous change and adaptation. You want your employees to experience and support change with the fewest bruises possible so they become fully engaged with the new way of working. I don’t believe you can convince anyone to do anything. I believe if you give people the right information in the right way, they can convince themselves. Transformational leaders know how to do this. They enhance and accelerate organizational change using one critical skill: effective communication.

You can’t just give people information and assume they will perceive it the same way you do. You have to be careful how you deliver information to your employees. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be transparent. Transparency is an important part of being a good leader. However, when it comes time to enroll your employees in accepting a new vision or organizational change, how you deliver that information to them is critical. I’m not referring to body language and voice. Those do play a part in how people receive the information but that’s not what should be the main concern. Instead, you need to be strategic about your message and how the listener’s brain is going to receive the information.

The brain does not work the way we assume it does. There are countless examples from everyday life or examples from psychology experiments that demonstrate this fact. You can say one thing and half of the room will perceive it one way and half of the room might take it a completely different way. What can you do to get more people to share your perspective? If they can share your point of view, they are more likely to follow your lead and it is easier for them to take action.

If you want to hear some ways to improve your communication skills in order to be a transformational leader, please join me at the MassTLC Conference “The Next Generation Customer Journey” on March 24th to learn more. It’s a day packed with ideas, thought leadership and networking with your peers.

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