Meet Them Where They Are

I had an interesting conversation with my niece over lunch today. She is currently working in a school for kids with special needs in Singapore. She shared with me one group in particular, kids who are autistic, require a lot of certainty, consistency and routine. Things need to be done in the same way and the same order. Teachers decided to incorporate a “Change” card in the system such that whenever there is a change in the order of the lessons (eg. due to a rainy weather), they will use the “Change” card to indicate there is a change in the class program for the day. Everyone in the class now knows this rule and when the “Change” card is used, everyone knows what to expect and things change as per order.

I thought this is simply brilliant. In-building an unexpected variant into a routine and order so that it is part of the routine and order, something the kids value the most. In many sense, leadership, corporate culture and coaching all share similar characteristics: Framing; setting the context where our people are in order to serve our people best.

During one of my Leaders Create Leaders workshops, a manager raised a question: "Warren, what if we really want to grow our staff, but they just don’t want to grow? What if they just want to stay in their comfort zone, because they value consistency and certainty more than anything else?"

My answer would be to meet them where they are. They value consistency and certainty. Let’s go along with the same line. What is the most certain and consistent thing about life and our career? Change. It’s the only constant. I took Uber to Tan Son Nhat airport the other day. When I flew back to HCMC, Uber is gone. That’s how fast and furious Change is nowadays, besides being constant. What if things around us are changing and we refuse to change, grow, and jump out of our comfort zone? We will most certainly experience some serious pain. Pain of lacking behind competitors, missing out new potential opportunities, and even the pain of losing our careers. To avoid this pain, the most certain way for us to move forward is to proactively adapt, change, and grow. Growing new skills, mindsets and experiences consistently, challenging ourselves, jumping out of our comfort zones to create new comfort zones is the only certainty to thrive in this constantly changing world. Now how can I support you with that? (remember to smile)

Its always easier to meet people where they are, instead of getting them to meet you where you are. All transformations happen in their heads, not ours. The challenge is do we know where they are at? How do we get there? Let's go.

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