Minds can change after hearing a single presentation, but more often, it takes significant pre-work and follow-up to convince your listeners to take action. You may have a great story or metaphor that makes your idea “sticky,” but to really change behavior, you may have to think about extending the metaphor.
A few weeks back I explored how a company used a skit about apple and orange vendors to illustrate a flexible company that was easy to work with. The flexible orange vendor came out the hero in the skit and represented how a successful company should respond to customers. The organization has since held conference calls named “Selling Oranges” to discuss successes and when discussing a defect, they reference selling apples.
Sometimes, a metaphor helps break down your listeners’ pre-conceptions about an idea. For example, the Bay Group is well known for teaching business negotiation skills. In their basic 101 curriculum, they use situation teaching. For example, they describe how to buy a car effectively to teach negotiation skills. Then, as they teach managers how to coach those who have been through the training, they remind managers of these metaphors and encourage them to extend them. It is easy to help someone when you can say “remember how you got that great deal on the car in training? Use that same technique to get through this situation.”
I worked with a colleague who discovered a barrier that was holding us back from achieving our strategic plan. At the time, many of our staff members were akin to survivors a la the television show where contestants “Outwit, Outplay, Outlast.” The associates were very tenured, had been through many management changes and expected they could get around the plan, choose better plays than planned, or just outlast these ideas. This idea stuck and soon, all managers were aware of the definition of survivors and the need to change their minds or remove them from the organization. They measured success monthly and discussed often.
I teach organizations how to develop playbooks and speak at many seminars and round tables. Why is it important to build playbooks rather than guidelines, rules or process? I always tell my audience that playbooks are the Trojan horse of process improvement. No one gets excited by the roll out of a new process with rules and guidelines, but a playbook is full of extendable metaphors. Sports themes can be rolled in. You can keep score and winning is fun, worth celebrating. This is not always the case with the process diagram. Of course, as I teach how to write the playbook, I extend the Trojan horse metaphor to reinforce the playbook’s value.
Recently, I made a presentation about improving questioning skills and found a great, extendable metaphor. The key point of the presentation was that actively questioning someone about a business issue used all the skills that an FBI agent relies on to interrogate a suspect or witness. My partner and I dressed as Sherlock Holmes and Watson, complete with CSI music and a clip from American Gangster.
Extending the metaphor offers limitless possibilities. Every day, something happens in the news that allows an opportunity for new ideas and ways to explain concepts. Extending your metaphors well beyond your initial presentation will help you change minds and get your listeners to take action.
After completing the Communicate to Win workshop, you will have the most compelling argument and the best ideas. With this complete package, you will gain the tools necessary to guarantee that you have the best ideas and that you can present them confidently so you will WIN. Read what participants say.
photo by Katrina Snaps. Used by permission.