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Removing roadblocks to social business adoption

I’ve always been curious why doctors smoke, why nutritionists eat junk food, and why people who intellectually know the right thing to do, don’t do it anyway (myself included!). This paradox is common in organizational change efforts as well, and we are working to address it in our Digital + Social Selling Transformation.

I work with a team of people around the world to support our social business adoption efforts among our sales reps, who are being asked to engage in new behaviors using collaborative technologies, digital tools and social networking practices to use in the sales process.

I’ve had the fortune to explore the status of our change journey with many of our first line sales managers and Social Selling Champions in recent training sessions and workshops I’ve delivered.

In these workshops, I shared a few “money” charts from our Better Change for IBM Methodology™. The two charts I love to use are the Change Curve (an individual’s emotional response to change) and a related view, the Change Journey, outlining the stages of adoption from Awareness, Understanding to Commitment. (For background on Change Curve, review my earlier blog post).

We discussed where they think we are as an organization along the Change Curve and why some reps are having a hard time changing. Some of the sales reps suggested that their peers may not have the personal understanding or be able to articulate the “What’s In It for Me?” in order to engage in the desired behaviors.

The more interesting conversations occurred when we brainstormed on how to move people along the Change Curve from having a personal understanding of the change to taking the desired actions and engaging in the right behaviors.

When we got to this point, I asked them “How many people believe that exercise is important to your good health?” And everyone raises their hand.

Then I asked: “How many of you exercise every day?” and very few hands go up.

So the important question to ask next is: “Why not? Where’s the disconnect?”

The same thing applies to sales reps and FLMs who know social selling can help them in the sales process, but they don’t take the necessary steps to build the skills, use the tools, or interact with clients in the “new” way.

My hypothesis around the source of this disconnect is that these folks are not engaging their left brain and right brain fully. They’re stuck on the right side – in an emotional state of resistance. While many researchers have debunked the left brain vs. right brain theory as myth, I still think that colorful images such as this one are helpful when illustrating the point for discussion.

This point of inaction is the source of a lot of resistance, excuses and most importantly, an opportunity for learning.

By probing more deeply on “Why are you/ they not taking action?” we uncover the real truth. There can be a variety of responses and it’s our job as change agents to read between the lines, and uncover the underlying causes of resistance. Here are examples that you may discover:

  • Fear

  • Lack of skills

  • Not wanting to put in the effort required

  • Feeling overwhelmed with current responsibilities

  • Conflicting messages

  • Already feeling overwhelmed with daily activities

  • Misaligned incentives

  • It’s not fun, I don’t like it

We all have examples of this in our life. For me, it’s exercising and budgeting. For others, it’s updating their LinkedIn status updates or Twitter posts daily, paying bills, or cleaning.

What’s important here is to help your Change Champions, FLMs, leaders, and others, have compassion for the people who are resistant and not judge them too harshly. Having compassion helps us listen more effectively, understand the sources of resistance, validate fears, and then come up with action plans to help active resistors along the change curve towards Adoption.

And of course we can deploy other strategies, such as positive peer pressure, aligning incentives, recognizing and highlighting role models.