Part 1: The Analysis
“How can I convince clients to try something other than the same old thing they’re used to?”
I wish I had a dime for every consultant who asked a version of that question. How can I convince them? How can I get them to try?
Unfortunately, the questions often show up as frustration and blame.
Organizations won’t change.
They won’t try anything new.
They won’t do the work, even after I’ve worked with them.
Because our work at the Community-Driven Institute is about creating dramatic, visionary social change, the issue of “client readiness” has become an important one for us. If organizations are not ready to adopt new approaches, they are well guaranteed to continue to see the same old results.
We spend a lot of time talking about this in our consultant immersion classes. The questions we ask there have led to a great deal of our own thinking on the subject.
- What might we, as consultants, do to encourage clients, rather than try to “convince” them?
- What questions might inspire our clients to want to do the work?
- What stories might we share to engage them in thinking differently?
- Where do we, as consultants, need to be in our own thinking, to help clients want to try something new?
The more we ask those questions of ourselves, the more we see the obvious – that “client readiness” is not a black-or-white issue. It’s not that clients are either ready or not. Instead there is a continuum of readiness that clients move along, as they consider being differently in their work.
Before diving into our thinking around this issue, I will share that that is just what it is – thinking. We hope you will share your own thinking to what we have begun here, so we can all help our clients reach for their highest potential to create change in their communities.
One last thing: The following continuum is built upon a foundation of thinking pioneered by Suze Casey, as she researched and developed systems for Belief Repatterning. We are humbly grateful for the immense body of knowledge Suze has produced and shares so generously.
Stage 1: Resistance
“I Won’t” (or) “I Don’t”
The first rung of the ladder is the stage at which a person is completely not ready to consider a new approach. We consultants typically meet these people only when someone else says, “Please talk with Mary. She has a great concept, but the organization is floundering and she refuses to listen to anyone…”
Mary is at the stage of won’t / can’t / don’t need to. Her immediate response to any suggestion that she try something different is to get defensive. That defensiveness may sound like this: “That might be well and good for others, but it doesn’t apply to me.”
If Mary were in the supermarket, and your consulting work was a free sample of pizza, Mary would walk right past, thinking, “I don’t eat pizza. That’s not for me.”
Stage 2: Unacknowledged Curiosity
At Stage 2, Mary’s resolve has softened just a smidge. Something has happened, and she is almost unwittingly beginning to be open to learning about this new thing – to perhaps think about it, read about it.
Mary probably still won’t do so publicly, though. She may read an article in the privacy of her own home. She may do an internet search. She may click on a link by someone she knows on Facebook, whose links she had previously patently ignored.
Mary is getting curious.
Asked if she had been looking for these bits and pieces of information, Mary would most likely say she just happened to find them. She happened to click a link. She happened to follow up with a Google search on something that was mentioned by a colleague. She is taking action, but sees herself as simply responding to what life has presented, rather than seeing herself as seeking it out.
In our supermarket pizza example, Mary might take advantage of the fact that the Pizza Lady is available to answer questions at the free sample table. Is it fattening? Is it tasty? Is it all natural? And because the Pizza Lady has it sitting right there on napkin with a toothpick, Mary might even taste the pizza!
Stage 3: Open Curiosity
“I’ll Try It…”
In Stage 3, Mary’s defenses are no longer over-riding her curiosity. Having done some reading – or perhaps taken an online quiz, or maybe read an easy piece of wisdom she could incorporate into a board meeting – Mary is finally open to taking a first public step into a new way of thinking.
Mary might attend a workshop. She might buy a book. Or two books. She might start conversations with others who are in the same boat.
Continuing our pizza example, if you were out to dinner with Mary, and someone suggested pizza, Mary might say, “Oh what the heck – I’ll order a slice!” (And she’ll like it, and will probably order a second one!)
Stage 4: Taking Action with Clear Intent
“I’ll Do it!”
In Stage 4, Mary is moving forward with intent. In Mary’s mind up till now, she likely believes she has been exposed to these new concepts and approaches without such intent – that these new ideas have been put in her path, and she has simply responded.
In Stage 4, Mary is taking control, making the decision with resolve. And she is excited!
Perhaps she met you (the consultant) at a workshop you gave on governance or fundraising. Mary calls you to ask if you will come speak to her board. “I’d love you to give our whole board the workshop I attended. They need to know this stuff!”
Mary has just picked up the phone and ordered her very first whole pizza.
Stage 5: Self-Identifying
“This is what I do”
At Stage 5, Mary and her organization see the “new” approach as simply how they do their work. It is not new or different. It is no big deal. It just is.
The board has an annual plan and is working that plan. Or the board has incorporated a new model of governance into the way it operates. Or the organization has a proactive resource development plan, and the plan is working.
Of course we plan. Of course we work this way as a board. Of course this is how we generate resources.
At Stage 5, Mary eats pizza for lunch several times a week. When she goes out with friends, she orders pizza. She doesn’t think of it as new or special; she just does it.
Stage 6: We’ve Always Done It Like This
At Stage 6, we are not “doing” our work in a particular way; that way of being has seeped into the organization’s DNA. It is simply what the organization is. No one can remember ever being anything but that. “We’ve always done it like this!”
Mary doesn’t have to focus on doing her work in this way. The approach is her natural rhythm. It feels right, logical, whole. It is simply who she is.
At dinner, a friend will comment that Mary is ordering pizza. “I’ve always eaten pizza,” Mary replies. “I can’t remember a time when I didn’t!”
Summary and What’s Next
As I have considered these stages of readiness, we see our prospective clients moving through these stages from “Won’t” to “Being it.” We see them moving from “I don’t” through “I do” to arrive at “I am.”
In Part 2 of this article, I will tackle approaches that work for helping to move clients through the stages. Someone might move through some stages very quickly – seemingly jumping over them. But regardless of where we enter the continuum (some people may be at Stage 2, for example, without ever having been at Stage 1), I believe that from there, we then go through each of those stages, however briefly, rather than skipping over some on the way to what’s possible.
But we will see. As I said, I am exploring this thinking here with you. And I’m looking forward to seeing how that evolves.
So what has been your experience? Am I close? And is this thinking helpful as you consider your own clients and their potential for working with you?