Making Things Happen!

hearts and minds

In one of his books, the late Howard Wight suggested there are three kinds of people in this world:

  • Those who make things happen
  • Those who wait for things to happen
  • And those who don’t even know anything is happening!

While this perspective might have been intended to be a bit ‘tongue-in-cheek,’ there is merit in striving to be a person who makes things happen.

In fact, one could argue that making things happen is a key activity for sales professionals as well for entrepreneurs, sales managers and leaders at all levels; and that all of them frequently fight uphill battles to get that part of their jobs done.

Consider that, in their daily quest for new customers, sales people constantly struggle to overcome buyers’ comfort with the status-quo.

Similarly, as entrepreneurs share new ideas and visions, they most often encounter nay-sayers, cynicism or other forms of push-back. In organizations of all types people tend to look with skepticism at new policies and procedures, and look with deep concern at new compensation plans or updated benefits programs; and people at all levels regularly cringe at the suggestion that there might be a different or better way to do their jobs!

Simply stated, people tend to resist change.

Yet without change comes stagnation… and potentially worse things too. Current-day examples include Kodak, Polaroid, Sears, Blockbuster, and countless others, each experiencing significant declines, or worse, as competitors introduced new and better alternatives.

The cassette tape replaced the eight-track, but was then outdone by the compact disc, which was undercut by MP3 players, and now we stream… the list can go on.

You might like to hear a few well chosen words in support of this line of thinking in this short video featuring Simon Sinek.

Hearts & Minds: Simplifying the Mission
If we can accept the premise that making things happen often involves getting others to change in some way, then we can simplify our mission by following the advice of John Kotter, who is recognized as one of the world’s foremost experts in the area of leading change.

“To be successful in a change process of any kind, you have to win over the hearts and the minds of people,” he said.”

In other words, when promoting new ideas or in some way trying to bring about change, we must find ways to appeal to both the rational and the emotional parts of decision-makers’ minds.

The problem, however, as Kotter describes it in one of his lectures, is that most of us have been “taught and role-modeled” to focus on trying to influence what people think about the change or new idea, and, as a result, we pay little attention to how people feel about it.

Kotter further explained that when he studied successful change projects, he found a small percentage that were particularly effective. In those more successful instances, the initiators worked much more on trying to get people to feel differently about changing their behavior and not to just think differently about it. He estimated that, in the most successful instances, approximately 60% of the focus was put on the emotional side and 40% on the rational side.

He goes on to say, “If you study the way the brain has been constructed… you’ve got two pieces – this emotional piece and this thinking piece; the emotional piece has a longer history and is more tightly connected to those nerves that change and regulate our behavior. If you want to make somebody change to a significant degree, that’s the more powerful lever.”

Another Persuasive View
Kotter’s findings align well with the perspective of G. Harold McLeod, a sales and marketing expert, who once wrote, .”People are persuaded more by the depth of your conviction than by the height of your logic; more by your own enthusiasm than any proof you can offer. Put another way, people are converted not to your way of thinking, they are persuaded more by your way of feeling and your way of believing.”

It takes hearts and minds to make things happen!