3 Top Mistakes in Ignoring Emotions during Process Change and How to Avoid Them

Jeff Cole
Contributor: Jeff Cole
Posted: 01/12/2017


If you want to understand the power of emotions driving action, look no further than the stock market. Some authors say that three emotions drive short-term market movements -  Greed, Fear, and Uncertainty.  

As the DOW recently raced toward 20,000, greed took over as people piled on to grab a ticket on that rocket.   But when a Fed announcement came out, Fear emerged and the DOW took a dive.  Sometimes it moves sideways – people are uncertain and confused as to whether they should be fearful or greedy. Short term, the market is sometimes much more about emotions than fundamentals! 

This applies when we go to make a process change in an organization as well.   We can be so focused on the fundamental technical aspects of a change that people’s emotions are the last thing on our minds.   And, if you believe in any of the many personality-type and communication-style assessments like DISC, Meyers-Briggs, FIRO-B or Paul Mok, some of us are naturally prone to not focus on other’s emotions to start with.     

Not attending to your audiences’ emotions can be fatal and it’s a topic that’s easy to ignore.    Here are three common mistakes and tips on avoiding them.

Mistake #1:  Underestimating the power of emotions Marketers often say people make decisions emotionally and justify them with logic. As you roll out a large process change, your audience is, in essence, deciding whether or not to buy what you are selling (engage) or not (resist). Remember the red stapler from Office Space?

TIP:   Don’t make the mistake of only communicating the logical reasons for your change. Improving some number on a balance sheet that only management cares about is not really going to fire up the old emotion-meter! Aim for at least a 1:1 ratio of emotional to logical reasoning in your communications.

Mistake #2:  Assuming they all think like you Remember that you have an insider’s behind-the-scenes all-access pass to the process change you have designed. Your audience doesn’t. You have been involved in bringing this to life. Your audience – not so much.   It’s easy to think they will all be as positive and excited about this as you.  Again- don’t count on it.   It’s just one of 45 other things they’ll hear about and be asked to do today. 

TIP:  Audience perspectives may be very different than yours. It pays to remember that in your communication approaches.    Assume your audience ranges from negative to neutral to positive about your new process.

Mistake #3.  The steam-roller It’s one thing to not understand the power of your audience’s emotions.  It’s another level of dysfunction entirely to understand it and choose to ignore it by using brute-force implementation. “Hearts, minds, and hands” is the goal. A steam roller approach gives you the hands only and often short term results that later fade.    (Leaving your audience as flat as Kevin Bacon at the end of Animal House…)

TIP:  Brute force is a blunt instrument in your tool box. More informed approaches will seek to understand the target audience’s underlying thought processes.  Then aim to align your communication approaches, timing, methods, messengers and messages to best suit that audience.  

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to grab my red stapler and report to Dean Wormer’s office.   Happy Change…




Jeff Cole
Contributor: Jeff Cole
Posted: 01/12/2017


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