If you want people to do the right thing, make it easy for them

Taking notes

Just as common sense isn’t common, the blindingly obvious isn’t always obvious.

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make when trying to effect change is they assume others know what they know, and see what they see.

Good communication is an essential part of any attempt to create positive change, but is so often overlooked.

A simple mantra I share with clients is; “Make it easy for people to do the right thing”.

The first step is being crystal clear about what the ‘right thing’ is. What exactly is it that you want people to do, or do differently?  It sounds obvious but often it’s not. Those trying to bring about change tend to be so involved in the project or initiative that they forget others are not so well informed.

When I come in as consultant and ask the ‘why’ questions of those leading change, it’s often a wake up call for them as they realise it’s the first time in a while they have stopped to articulate what it is they are trying to achieve, why they are doing it, and what they will need people to do differently in order to make the change successful. 

Once it’s clear what the desired behaviour or action is, the next step is to make it easy for people – give them the information, tools, systems, processes, whatever is needed to make it easy for them to do it.

The opportunity

Whether you are a leader in a large organisation, a small business owner, or an individual operator, you can think about applying this simple mantra any time you want to influence an outcome or change behaviour.

Want staff to focus on the work that will most effectively achieve your business strategy? Make it easy for them – be sure they know what the business goals actually are and how they can contribute (see previous blog on using good design to aid understanding of strategy). People managers are key to this, so make it easy for them too – give them communications training and any collateral they need to help them engage their staff in what the organisation is trying to achieve.

Want people to come to your team for advice before commissioning a publication or signing off a project plan and budget? Make it easy for them – be sure they know how your team can add value to their process when brought in early, and who to contact. I’ve often heard communications teams lament the fact that people aren’t coming to them for advice, and in the same breath acknowledge that people don’t really understand what it is they do.

Want someone to hire you for a job? Make it easy for them – be sure you can tell them why you are the best person for the job over the tens or hundreds of other applicants. What’s your value proposition? What makes you unique? Know this, and make it easy for them to choose you.

Lucy Sanderson-Gammon, MBA, is director of Luminous Consulting Limited. She provides management and communications consultancy and short term contracting services, as well as business and career coaching, and manager communications training.

This article is also available on LinkedIn and the CW Observer Blog.