If you’ve followed Influence PEOPLE for any length of time then Hoh Kim should be a familiar name to you because of his contributions to the Influencers from Around the World series. Like me, Hoh is a Cialdini Method Certified Trainer (CMCT). In addition to that prestigious certification, Hoh also has his masters in intercultural communication from Marquette University. You can learn more about Hoh by checking out his website, The Lab h, and his blog, Cool Communications. I encourage you reach out to Hoh on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.
Where Do You Focus: Problems or Successes?
In my last guest article I posed a question to readers about what they would do in a particular situation. This time I’d like to do a follow up of sorts, only in a slightly different context which I will elaborate on.
Many people make mistakes by highlighting negative social proof, rather than the positive ones. This is not only a phenomenon in surveys but everywhere. I am sure you are very familiar with a general business term, “problem solving.” Yes, we all want to solve problems and in order to solve “problems” we should identify and analyze in depth what the problem really is because most of us think we can solve problems once we know what the problem is.
Is that true? Not always. Maybe it is true for medical doctors when treating patients’ diseases, and perhaps for engineers when fixing a machine’s problem but what about problems in human beings and organizations?
Recently I attended the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) workshop and heard a real story. Once, an organization had a “problem” – only 79% of their customers were satisfied with their service. So the company did some research to figure out what the problems were for the 21% of non-satisfied customers. They found it and announced it to the organization. What happened? Executives and employees started to blame others for the problems and the satisfaction rate dropped even further!
The CEO was disappointed so he changed the strategy. He conducted another study to figure out why 79% of their customers were satisfied. Yes, their success cases. Next, the company tried to spread the cases within the organization. The result this time? The satisfaction rate shot up to 95% within eight months!
Chip Heath, from Stanford, and Dan Heath, from the Aspen Institute, wrote a great book called Switch. One of the secrets to switch people’s behavior, according the brothers, is to find ‘bright spots’ rather than focusing on problems. They wrote, “Don't solve problems. Copy successes.”
The Heaths quote the late Insoo Kim Berg (1934-2007) who was a globally known psychotherapist who pioneered the Solution Focused BriefTherapy method. When Kim counseled her clients, she didn’t spend time asking what their problems were or analyzing them. She simply focused on identifying solutions. If a kid has the problem of not focusing at all during class she would approach the child not to find out why she or he acted in that way, but trying to find the conditions in which they pay attention to the teacher during the class. Sometimes the child follows one specific teacher well, then, Insoo Kim Berg would analyze why that was the case. On an interview, Kim Berg said, “You don't need to know what the problems are. You just have to know what the solutions are.” It sounds like a joke but during my recent consulting work I have applied these “bright spots” concepts and it has worked well. Here's a quote from the AI workshop, “If you focus on problems, you will create more problems. If you focus on successes, then, you will create more successes.”
We work with different bosses, colleagues, staff members, clients, consultants, etc., and see that some of them focus on bright spots, while others focus on the “dark spots.” Each side has pros and cons but you will see most people say things like this, “That’s the problem” or “This is the problem,” without ever suggesting solutions. It’s true that criticizing problems is easy and offering solutions can be difficult but I think the real problem are the “people who always talk about problems only” and fail to offer solutions.