How to Be Direct and Explicit When Reframing Others

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Despite all the business change knowledge uncovered during the last 50 years, many seasoned change management professionals still aren’t adequately prepared to serve those trying to navigate their way through today’s turbulence. Change Thinking is an effort to have an exchange with, and be part of, a community of practitioners committed to raising the level of their game and that of the field of change execution.

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In this series, I’ve been describing the skills required (there are five of them) to reframe a person’s mindset during a change initiative. In this post, I’ll talk about the final skill.

Reframing Skill #5: The Willingness to Confront

For many change facilitators, this final skill is the most difficult part of the reframing process. Being direct and explicit with other people by challenging their way of looking at the world is risky, both personally and professionally. People can become trapped in their existing perspectives and lose their ability to adapt to important changes. Most people tend to believe only what they see, but see only what they believe exists.

Sometimes, the only way to effect movement from the status quo is to “confront” people with the true price for what is required to accomplish the desired outcome. The term is not used here to imply being argumentative or insulting. When associated with reframing people, “confronting” means putting a mirror up so they can see and face the implications of their current mindset. Here is an example:

I understand how you view this situation and I can see how it has led you to have the priorities you do, take certain positions, and do the things you do. That said, the current course you are on will lead to consequences that I don’t think are in your best interest. The same situation, however, viewed differently, could provide some alternatives that may work more in your favor. If you keep your present mindset, you will probably not solve the problem (or leverage the opportunity) the way you ultimately want. You’ll need a different perspective to accomplish what you want. I know it’s difficult to redefine your view of things but I believe it is important to try because I honestly believe you will not be satisfied with the result otherwise.”

The confrontational aspect of reframing means we care enough about the individual to be brutally honest about the downside of their current perspective and to offer an alternative view.

The Reframing Process

Reframing is the process of integrating the five skills covered in this series into four specific phases. (Download a complete table of strategies and tactics here.)

  • In Phase 1, the practitioner identifies the other person’s mindset. This step provides a basis for understanding the person’s existing context or “code book” for interpreting a given change situation. Strong communication and active listening skills are critical to the success of this phase.
  • In Phase 2, the practitioner follows certain specific steps to help create an alternative FOR so the person can interpret the situation in a manner more amenable to a successful outcome. The ability to legitimize the person’s current viewpoint, offer an alternative perspective, and be honest about the price for success is critical to the achievement of this phase.
  • In Phase 3, the practitioner helps reset new priorities based on the new FOR.
  • In Phase 4, the practitioner must be prepared to respond appropriately to the person’s reaction when the recommended new FOR and priorities are offered.

Professional facilitators of organizational change must be able to influence those they serve (sponsors, agents, targets, and advocates). Of particular importance is their ability to guide sponsors. There are times when this kind of influence takes the form of reshaping others’ views as well as their interpretation of a situation in order to alter their natural tendencies. What I have presented here is the way I address the challenge of reframing mindsets. There are many perspectives on this important part of practicing our craft, so I encourage those who rely on other approaches to share them with us.

Go to the beginning of this series.

Posted on: October 04, 2011 03:08 PM | Permalink

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