The Power Of Just A Few Words

The Change Leader Weekly

To Ponder: Unintended Consequences

I’m an avid Dropbox user. I was a (fairly) early adopter of the service, and I’ve never converted away. However, as part of the recent rebrand, I updated the short-name of my top level Dropbox folder. Dropbox handled the change quite easily.

But, it all wasn’t daisies.

I run a couple pieces of software directly out of my Dropbox folders. Unlike Dropbox itself - these did not like the upline name change one bit. (In fact, I’m still resolving those issues as I write this).

It’s the classic story of unintended consequences.

Plan for one thing, and another unintended thing happens.

This is normal and to be expected - especially when changing things.

Your question to ponder this week is:

How do you prepare your teams for unintended consequences?

My humble suggestion - forge upfront clarity in the right things, build in contingency, and normalise reflection and learning.

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To Action: Strategic Labelling

When I was in High School, my teacher failed my efforts at Creative Writing.

I had spent long writing sessions pulling together something that I thought was fantastic. It had action, emotion and violence! Perhaps even Sci-Fi themes, thinking back to what I was reading for fun back then (Hitchhikers Guide and the Triffids come to mind).

For years I thought I was a primarily logic based person. That I wasn't 'creative'. And yet in the last 12 months I've authored 2 books in my field. #ValuableChange 😉

I know I'm not the only one with this experience. Yet this is something we all do.

We humans lean heavily on psychological shortcuts - in particular the labelling of ourselves and everyone around us. It's quick and efficient.

‘Go-getters’, ‘addicts’, ‘bludgers’, ‘smart’, ‘funny’, ‘charismatic’, ‘extroverted’, ‘left-brained’, ‘creative’, ‘driven’.

We sort people into mental boxes.

Labels drive not only our perceptions of others but our perceptions of ourselves. We gather small amounts of information and quickly jump to limiting or incorrect conclusions.

The truth is we all operate on spectrums, and we are so rarely at the extremes. These labels often perform us a dis-service.

However the knowledge that we do this means that we can use them to help those around us. As Change Leaders looking to help staff or teams feel a sense of belonging and shared identity - we can use strategic positive labelling to encourage and create desired behaviour in our organisations.

You can strategically create a label that makes sense for your staff to align with (for example, ‘Person X’ is our internal expert on ‘Topic Y’), and then provide public exposure under that very label. No matter the result of the public exposure, these individuals will start to self-identify under that label.  

So here’s your call to action for the week:

Try it out. Find a staff member that you think could benefit from a greater sense of belonging - and give them a beneficial label for them to self-identify with.

A word of caution: use this wisely.

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To Reflect: Small, Medium, Large

Keeping with this week’s theme of the power of words - Working with a client this week I was shown an interesting document. It was attempting to link a project’s scoped inclusions to its planned benefits. However, this document wasn’t interesting because of its content - but rather the way it managed to create confusion within this client’s team.

You see, the author had used the words ‘small’, ‘medium’ or ‘large’ to represent a scoped item’s level of contribution to a target benefit.

However the rest of this client’s team didn’t grasp that intuitively. Instead they defaulted to reading it as an indicator of the size of the work to be done. The end result of which was at least a couple hours of wasted time due to team misalignment.

So this week remember:

Language comes with social norms. Either respect the norms, or break them intentionally and explicitly. It’s in unintention that the sharks lie.

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Valuable Change - The Book Releases 30 August!

In the culmination of a massive, multi-year effort, Valuable Change: What You Need To Know To Ensure Your Change Pays Off is almost here! Proofing is done and I’ve just received my advanced review copies.

Valuable Change is a Change Leader’s complete handbook to setting up, driving and realising truly Valuable Change. 


Preorder Today

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Have a fabulous weekend. See you next week.