Ep 167 | Create More Ease with Change as a Leader with Steve Prentice
Change is never easy. When you're the leader of an organization it can be even more difficult. You may know what types. ofthings you want for your organization but you'll also have to bring your board, volunteers and team along. This can be something as simple as a new software or as complex as adding a new service or changing up the board. Hear from Steve Prentice on some ways you can create more ease with change.
What you'll learn:
→ why “that's what we've always done (THWADI) hinders growth.
→ listening to your team to make change easier.
→ how the 80/20 rule impacts change.
→ how to know when it's time for change.
Want to skip ahead? Here are key takeaways:
[7:16] THWADI That’s how we’ve always done it. Avoid using this saying when discussing changes to how your business operates. Use methods like adding changes over time, or delivering a vision first and then facts, to lead your team in new directions.
[15:22] Listen Listen to your team when they come to you about changes that can be positive for your business. Even if you don’t go in that direction, team members will be more positive and stay longer if they feel like they are being heard.
[22:45] 80-20 Rule Take 20% of your time to step back and evaluate yourself and your business. Learn from others on what styles of leadership can be effective and also what doesn’t work.
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[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] When it comes to being a leader in our organizations, we grow, we change, we evolve. And it's hard to kind of always bring people along with us. Different people have different ideas about how an organization should grow and change. And especially if you've all been together since the beginning, or you're pulling people in and out, it can be really tricky. So I'm really excited to have Steve Prentice here to talk to us about change in leadership and how to really kind of bring people along with you on the journey so that you can do more good in this world. Steve Prentice is a specialist in Organizational Psychology focusing on the junction where people and technology interact. He helps people in organizations understand each other, the technologies they use, and the changes that these present. He's a speaker, writer, journalist and university lecturer who focuses on human acceptance of cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, blockchain and the future of work. His fourth book is entitled The Future of Workplace Fear: how human reflex stands in the way of digital transformation. And focuses on the one key fact, humans are driven by fear, and its roots are much deeper than they appear. Anyone who seeks to deploy digital transformation successfully must understand this. Now, we don't talk a lot about technology and growth necessarily in this episode, but more of a broad way that this can kind of be integrated into your entire business, how you talk, how you listen, how you work with your team, how you kind of build, grow and scale. And it's just a lovely conversation that I think it'd be good for all of us to remind ourselves as we're building teams, as we're moving through different volunteers, or transitioning our board into volunteers, how we talk with our donors, if they don't know what we're doing, and how we can really get rid of this, Well, this is how it's always been done. That's definitely something that you know, is a pet peeve of mine. And if you're struggling with how to actually work through some of that with your team and your board, this is a great episode for you to do that. So I hope that you'll give it a listen. But before we jump into it, this episode is brought to you by our website Wednesday live workshops. These happen once a month, they're totally free, no pitch. But if you stay to the end, I always give you a freebie. And there's different topics every month that have something to do with sprucing up or fixing up or just auditing and reviewing your website so you can get better conversions. You can learn about this next topic at thefirstclick.net/website-Wednesdays. Hope you check them out so that you can join in. There's no replay, so you'll have to join live. So get them on your calendar now. Let's get into the Episode
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Hi there everyone. Please join me in welcoming Steve Prentice to the podcast. Steve, thank you so much for joining us today.
[Steve Prentice] It’s a great pleasure. Thank you for inviting me.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] We haven't actually talked about this topic very much on the podcast, although I love this topic. So I'm so excited you're here. But we're talking kind of change management and growing into leadership roles. Why do you think change is just so darn hard for people, especially in the workplace?
[Steve Prentice] Well, it's an instinctive problem, really. I mean, anytime there's something new coming into anybody's life, your instinct kicks in and says, Hey, I don't know what this is. I'm not sure about it. So I'm going to come up with no, and that's where we start with pretty much everything. We are ruled by a desire to stay safe, and including in the workplace, anything that is a new novel change represents potential danger. And that's why people will push back, whether it's a management level, or people just doing work, they're going to push back first, until they get to know what it's all about.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah, well, and so, you know, a lot of our audience, or nonprofits that are kind of in that, you know, wonky stage of, you know, we've been founder led, maybe volunteer led, we have a board, but now we're switching and transitioning into hiring more staff, maybe getting more of a working board, because our team is kind of taking over some of those responsibilities. And I feel like that transition is really tricky. And then the next phase when they're really scaling and growing kind of after that medium phase, like those two places, I think are where a lot of people struggle with either letting go or kind of growing in and taking some of those risks. So I want to talk about this from a couple of different places, but as a manager or a leader. How might we want to prep ourselves to kind of move into those leadership roles for ourselves before we even work through kind of building our teams to move through that transition?
[Steve Prentice] You know, I think for ourselves as leaders first being aware, as you said that, first of all, you got to have yourself in a mindset to accept and be willing to deal with change. And then you've got the second responsibility of bringing people, leading people into that change. So that's two different hats to wear. The rule that I always say is, whatever you don't know, whatever you fear, there is an answer for and it's a matter of just seeking out what that answer is. Fear tends to grow very large inside people's minds, when there's nothing to counteract it, because it's an emotion, and emotions are what carry us. We are ruled by emotion. So as leaders, as employees or workers as volunteers, every decision we make is based on emotion first, so therefore, whatever the change has happened to be, we have to basically balance that out with knowledge. What are we going to do? What is the problem here? What do I need to fix so that I can get a sense in my mind that there is a solution? It may not be easy, but having a solution, or at least having the steps towards it, are what leaders have to do first of all, in their own minds, so that they can have credibility as well as practical ability, when communicating that out to the team as to what we need to do. So that's what it is, is balance the facts to meet the fear, that's my prescription for that kind of challenge.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] So it’s kind of like pulling the emotion out of it. And just getting to, like, you know, maybe if all of the parties weren't at play, if I was just here doing this work without the personalities or the people, what would I want to do? And then kind of pull some of those solutions together, so you can more effectively communicate kind of where you're going?
[Steve Prentice] Yes, exactly. I mean, the emotion that we have, we don't want to sort of suppress emotion, but we want to redirect that emotion into enthusiasm and vision. So yeah, anything that causes us concern or fear. And it's the same thing for nonprofits as it is for a for profit corporation, we've got a bottom line, we've got a mission to do. And we think we're on the right track. And now something new is coming in. Yes, we have to understand what that change is. And we have to understand how that affects us as individuals, how that's going to affect us first. So we can actually make that change internally before externalizing it.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] And I think one of the biggest things that I see is changing systems or changing approaches to you know, maybe fundraising or you know, when we think about looking outside the box, and how can we do things a little bit more creatively, you know, the term will this is just the way it's always been done, I think is the killer of businesses. But that's just I think, probably the fear talking right? It's easier to just know what the results are, even if they're not awesome. So if you know, do you have any tools or ways that we can go about having conversation with people when we want to try to do something new, you know, if we know they're kind of change averse, but we know, we want to really bring in this new method, you know, how might we want to approach that to kind of set ourselves up for success?
[Steve Prentice] Absolutely. First of all, here, there's an acronym called a thwadi, t, h, w, a, d, i. Which stands for that's how we've always done it. And people are very comfortable doing that. That's how we've always done it. Now, why should they have to change? Well, here's the reason why. Life is changing, the world is changing, and it's changing much more quickly than ever before. That's an opportunity. You know, we think about the fact that that looks like a crisis to most people, but it's actually an opportunity to say, hey, there are new ways to connect and reach out with people, to raise funds to engage a community to work with us. There are new opportunities now. You know, just social media is a pretty normal thing, of course. But there are new ways to communicate and to interact and to fundraise and to crowdsource using social media. So the point is that there's an opportunity here to make the change. And I don't want to verbalize the second half, which is that if you don't make a change, you are destined to fall back and lose ground to others. Because even in a non for profit situation, we're still in competition, for people's attention, for the funds, for their passions, for their engagement. So yeah, change is happening. You've got lots of new younger people coming in who are very, very comfortable with the newest of new technologies. There's terrific opportunity here to grow beyond what we used to know. So yes, indeed, that's how we always did it. But the years of change are getting faster. I compare it to like dog years, we always thought about dog years, as you know, one in seven, well, that's getting even faster now. So I would say let's grab this opportunity, rather than thinking of it as a threat and saying, What can we use? Because the world is changing, it's getting more connected, and there's a lot of good in that that we can leverage. So what can we look at as new opportunities?
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Well, and so you know, you mentioned more younger people entering the workforce, and I think that's something also that nonprofits contend to get into where they just keep doing things the same way. And then all of a sudden, they hit a space where they find their donors are aging out. And they haven't kind of built in that next group of passionate people that can kind of fill that space. So if you're a younger person entering and wanting to talk to management about trying something new, maybe it's even just having a conversation about finding a subset of people that you can test that on, right. So you're not changing the whole plan. Is it easier for people to take in incremental pieces? Because sometimes we get so excited about an idea. We're just like, let's go, I know, I'm this way, let's go, let's do this. I don't have an issue with change and trying things out. So I tend to just like, throw everything at people. And then they're like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. So if you're like that, is it better to just kind of come in with some incremental changes? Hey, what if we just tried this that you know, in your head is going to lead to something else, but you don't have to lay out the whole plan right away?
[Steve Prentice] Yeah, there are a few different ways you can introduce change. And one of them is incremental, it's actually known as the nudge theory, where you just sort of move people along little bit by little bit to get used to things. That would have been much of a cold shock if you suddenly said one day, hey, we're gonna do this this whole new way. So nudge theory is one. And what I'm saying is that as a leader looking to bring change to an organization, maybe you want to school yourself on, you know, one or two or three different opportunities and say, Well, should we just nudge people along piece by piece? Or do you want to do a sort of a pilot project, you know, where in which you would promote the idea in advance and say, Look, this is a vision of a new and better way of doing things, you know, a more exciting way to engage people by having perhaps more virtual meetings or whatever the issue is, but to give them a vision first. A vision is not about facts. It's about a feeling, a positive feeling about how we can fundraise better, how we can mobilize better, how we can serve our base, the people that we serve better. And once that vision is in place, then say, Okay, now here's the steps we can do to make this happen. So that's another change management technique is to deliver the vision first, and captivate people's emotions. And once you've got them in the captive state, now deliver the facts, say, here's how we're going to do that. So we want to give people a sense that they're not being threatened. So that's why a nudge theory works extremely well. For example, in terms of, let's say, pedestrian friendly cities, and some climate change concepts, people are getting used to things in small amounts. And so they're looking to grow up on each small victory, to make the process even more effective over time. So my bottom line here is to say, as a leader, look at what will be the best way to introduce change, number one, nudge theory, number two, as I said, vision, followed by facts. And number three, sometimes a cold turkey approach does work in which we learn fast from either a positive or negative experience, say, we want we can do it this way again. You know, if you touch a hot stove, for example, your finger hurts, you're gonna have to do that, right? That's the easiest example. But you might also say, hey, you know, the way we tried to crowdsource our last fundraising got no traction whatsoever. So what can we learn from that and change it that way? So those are three different change management techniques that as a leader, I'd say, let's look at that, and decide how would our audience, whether that's against your volunteers, your team, your administrative overseeing board, perhaps, how are they going to take this? But yes, it might indeed require some education to give people an awareness of what they are hiding from. Maybe you have people, let's say, on a board of directors, or some sort of Supervisory group who are afraid to admit that they don't know what Tik Tok is, or something like that. So they're hiding, they're hiding their skills and talents, because they're afraid to lose face. So we can become sympathetic and say, Yeah, I understand. You know, there was a time when I didn't know how to save a document. That's life. So let's learn together. The enormous enthusiasm that comes when somebody gets over that hill, and starts to feel good about what once made them feel fearful, is a huge, powerful fuel that we can use. So education is really the one word answer that I have for you here.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] I'm hearing education and I'm hearing small wins.
[Steve Prentice] Small wins and celebrate those small wins all the way along. If you have a goal that's a year long, don't wait for the big reveal at the end of the year. Make sure to celebrate regularly. People need that nutrition of enthusiasm. They need to be fed small victories along the way. It's hugely powerful.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah, all right. Yeah, I hear that. We literally just figured out that we could use esign through Adobe Acrobat which we already pay for. It just happened. It took five seconds. We got real excited about that here.
[Steve Prentice] It's wonderful. So you celebrate, you know? Absolutely. So every single thing as a leader, everything hoping you see that could be a good feeling. You know how, you know, good feelings feel good naturally, but they don't tend to resonate as strongly as bad feelings. So we've got to make sure those good feelings are reinforced everywhere. So a little thing you say, Well, no big deal. DocuSign no big deal, Adobe. Yeah, it is a big deal, because it's another step forward. So it's a cumulative good feeling momentum that you can build that way.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah. Well, and then talk to me a little bit about, because I think, you know, as your business starts to grow and scale and enact, especially if you're founder led, and you're much more invested emotionally in the business, how can we kind of reel ourselves in? Because another thing that I'm hearing you say is leaders need to listen more when they're working on changing and feeling so that they can get the feedback so that they can better have conversation, right, so you can meet them where they are to help them through the change process, Right? So how can we as leaders, maybe rein ourselves back in so that we're not just dictating and barking and talking at our teams, but instead kind of embracing what they need in order to kind of bring everybody along?
[Steve Prentice] Yes, absolutely. You said it yourself. There's just one word once again, listen. Leaders are great at guiding people, absolutely. But in order to gain that trust, we need to not only listen to people, but demonstrate that we're listening. It's two different things. It's one thing to hear what people say that's important, because they're going to get feedback that is going to be very useful, first of all, for building that campaign and that strategy. But secondly, knowing that I have been heard, knowing that I have been listened to, once again, is an enormous liberating sense for me as a volunteer or an employee to know that you care, you care enough to stop and listen to me without telling me what to do. It doesn't mean that you're going to act on every single suggestion that I make. But knowing that I have been heard is one of those small victories that makes people want to stay with the team. So again, this is a nice easy one word answer, which you've already identified is to listen. But to demonstrate also that you are actively listening and that you care. And people love that kind of recognition. Because we want our team to stick, right, whether they're volunteers or paid, we want people to stay on the team. And one of the key reasons that people leave, leave a team, or even you as a consumer might leave a certain brand is not the defective element of the brand. It's not feeling adequately cared for, whether it's customer service, or leadership, people leave when they feel that they have not been cared for. So that's a magic solution that is not magic. It's just a matter of listening, and showing that you listened.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah, I can share a real life example that happened with me with a software company that we're kind of beta testing to bring into one of our membership platforms. And it's a new program. And I had sent them a message where I mean, we're anticipating onboarding a large number of people and business owners. And when I wrote their customer service to say, you know, hey, we'd really like this, you know, is this a feature? Can we just embed your program directly into WordPress? I got a one word answer that was, nope, not now. But you could put it in the roadmap. And if enough people do it, then we'll add it in. And I was like, Well, you're not even taking the time to learn about what my business is, or the value that we could provide to your business also, with the number of members that we have. And you're just like, shooting me over to something that's not going to give me any sort of results or solutions. So now we're like, we don't even necessarily want to beta test it because you accepted a one word, or like a one sentence response that had nothing to do with us. It was very can’t. So I'm glad that you brought that up. Because I think that's critical.
[Steve Prentice] No, you can imagine that that person at the other end was simply trying to be efficient by saying no, doesn't work on that program, worked on this one instead. That's a very clear cut and dried answer. But they haven't got the sense of customer service, right? I use the word customer service for anybody, not for profit or for profit. We're dealing with serving the emotions and the feelings of the people that you're dealing with. So that person might be able to say, hey, thank you. That's a really great idea. Maybe we can get to work on that, and actually have it available for you in the format that you need. But you're totally right, you feel dejected, you feel not cared for. And in this era, people will just simply walk whether it's again, really, you know, a particular brand they’ve been loyal to or a job. I'm not sure if you've heard of that term, the great resignation, but people are leaving work because they do not feel it is worth it any longer. So that again, goes back around to what we were saying before in terms of why should we do it a different way when that's how we've always done it? That's what they're gonna say, this is a different era, a very, very different era, and people are far more mobile and far more aware of their own power over their own time. And we've got to play with that. We've got to work with that rather than try and fight against it.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Well and also, because I think a lot of leaders feel like if they don't give the donor what they want, or if they don't give that board member what they want, then they're going to leave and take whatever, all this money with them. But kind of coming back to what you said a little bit earlier in that when we take the time to really listen and hear people, even when we don't give them what they want. I mean, it's, I would assume easier to have that conversation because at least they feel like you understand their perspective. And you can give them a better perspective back on why you're not doing what they suggested.
[Steve Prentice] Absolutely. I mean, this, this again, now becomes the word negotiation, right? Everything can be negotiated. So yeah, if you have sponsors, or donors, who exactly that, are worried that you're not, you're not doing things the way they expected. Well, let's go back to the root cause here. Why are they involved in the first place? If it is because they want to assist in making change and supporting what an organization does, then we can explain how this is the new way to make this work, how to make their money, their brand, their reputation resonate more effectively than the old way. So it might indeed be if we have a fear that you could lose a keyboard member because of the way we're doing things differently than yes, our strategy is to explain that what's in it for them, what's in it for their money, to actually be doing better to be on top of the best practices that are happening right now. There's also, I like to always have an ace up our sleeves here to say, you know, if we lose a key sponsor, a key donor, what was the cost of that money in the first place? Were they becoming a bit of a drag on the way we do things, of course, donations are great, but when one door closes, another door opens, you can always lead to the opportunities for other things coming in. If that's again, another key point that I like to use as a deflection against fear is that there's always something else that can happen, there's always a new person who can become the replacement for who we lost. So it's not always the biggest tragedy that we consider it to be. But bottom line, I'd rather work constructively first and say, you know, this is where and how your money is being used. Look how great this is. And we're just renegotiating another relationship
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Well, and you're coming at it from an abundance versus a scarcity mindset, right?
[Steve Prentice] Yeah, we recognize that the scarcity mindset is the default setting that we humans have. What's it going to do to me rather than what's it going to do for me? So again, we've got to always speak that language of turning that around to say, here's how this change is going to work for you and for us, rather than against you and against us.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah. Well, Steve, so many good things here. And I think this is, again, an episode that people will probably come back to, it's one that I hope that you come back to when you're in any period of growth, just as kind of such good reminders. But what other kinds of tips for leaders would you kind of want to leave them with today?
[Steve Prentice] Leaders find themselves to be in a position of constant, let's say, obligation to lead both from a status standpoint, but also, you know, they may feel that obligation. The key rule I always suggest for everybody is to apply the 80-20 rule to their lives, which means spending 20% of their time working on their business, I use that word business as just their business, really, rather than spending all of it in meetings, doing emails, and doing all the things that their business is about. Self improvement and awareness of what's going on in the world requires a little bit of time, we've got the best opportunity ever in human history right now to self educate, using even social media tools like Twitter, which I know has a lot of bad stuff on it, but also has some very good stuff in there, where you can learn about what's going on in the world. So my advice to every leader is to get off that hamster wheel. Even if you have self imposed, you've placed yourself on that hamster wheel out of your own sense of status or your desire for attention. And say, take some time to stop and look around what else is going on in the world. Take some time to network both on your peer level, but also with the people outside and other areas. Because that's where growth happens. Once again, this is an era where growth is happening much more quickly than ever before. You can't set a five year plan as your one and only way of doing things. We've got to be a lot more agile than that. So my advice is for every leader, learn, continue to learn. Look at other leadership styles. Who do you admire? Whether it's new young leaders or people who have been around for decades but have been doing well and thriving, who do you admire? And who can you emulate? And also Who do you not admire? And do you share some skills with them that you can shed and get rid of? So take the time to continue to self educate and self improve, rather than feeling obliged to stay on the hamster wheel all the time.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] I think that's genius. And I think that alone would be kind of what pulls you out of that. Well, this is how it's always been done. Because if you're not ever looking for new ideas, then you don't even have new ideas to kind of fix, evolve and change what you're working on.
[Steve Prentice] Here's an illustration or a mnemonic that I love to share with people when I talk about this, people think about doing things the way they've always done it, like treading water, you know, like, if you can, when you're swimming, just simply tread water and you stay in place. But the problem is, you're treading water in a river, which means that even treading water means you're actually being dragged downstream, away from safety, away from benefits and thriving. So we have to learn to keep swimming, right, just keep swimming, just like the famous fish. Just keep swimming, but treading water, and that's how we've always done it is by definition, a guarantee of moving towards mediocrity or worse, because you can't stay in one place anymore. You've got to keep moving forward. So there's great pleasure in that, there's great excitement in that. It's just a matter once again of putting those facts in front of the fear to say what are we going to achieve? And how are we going to do it? And if I don't know, then you find out, you ask somebody, you bring someone on board and you learn from them.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yep, that's such a good space, I think, to end this on. Steve. If people want to know more about you or connect with you, how do they do that?
[Steve Prentice] You can simply go to my website. If I was to hand you my physical business card. It has one thing on it, no phone number, no fax, nothing, no fax machines, simply Steveprentice.com. You can find out everything you want. Going right there. And thank you.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah, and we'll link all that up in the show notes at thefirstclick.net/167. Steve, thank you so much for this conversation today. It's got me really motivated and excited to kind of jump into my work today.
[Steve Prentice] Oh, it's been a pleasure, Sami, thank you so much.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Big thank you again to Steve Prentice for joining me on today's episode. I'm feeling inspired and motivated and ready to go. I hope you are as well. Let me know kind of, what was your biggest takeaway? How did you feel about how this relates to kind of the struggles that you're dealing with, your day to day work life around change, change management and leadership? You can send me an email at Hello@thefirstclick.net but for now, make sure you subscribe wherever you listen and give us a five star review so more people can find us and learn about how to grow and build their nonprofit organizations. But for now, I'll see you in the next one.