Motivating Stakeholders to Influence Change

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Motivating Stakeholders to Influence Change

Viewing change through the lenses of emotional intelligence and neuroscience provides the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of stakeholder behaviours and motivations.  The most emotionally intelligent people are able to put themselves in others’ shoes and in doing so are most likely to be able to answer a crucial question when seeking to engage and motivate stakeholders; “what’s in it for me?”.

Have you ever spotted a threat or opportunity which requires a change of strategy, direction, or behaviour from your organisation, but struggled to identify ways to be heard, achieve buy-in and to successfully influence the change required?

You’re not alone.  Anyone within the field of organisational change is acutely aware that a significant number of change initiatives will fail.  The strategy might be exactly the right thing for the greater good of the organisation, but this doesn’t mean people within the organisation will want to implement it.

Successful change requires successful mobilisation of a multitude of stakeholders, each with their own projects, goals and personal aspirations.  Failure to acknowledge this or to seek a better understanding of what is likely to motivate or demotivate the key stakeholders in any change initiative is highly likely to dictate a negative outcome.

Motivating Stakeholders to Influence Change

As specialists in change and engagement, the fields of emotional intelligence and neuroscience provide us with invaluable insights when implementing change initiatives for our clients

Viewing change through the lenses of emotional intelligence and neuroscience provides the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of stakeholder behaviours and motivations.  The most emotionally intelligent people are able to put themselves in others’ shoes and in doing so are most likely to be able to answer a crucial question when seeking to engage and motivate stakeholders; “what’s in it for me?”.

When providing support to a financial services client in a recent change initiative we were able to pinpoint numerous responses to the ‘what’s in it for me?’ question.  Our client had presumed that some kind of bonus would provide the necessary carrot on a stick to ensure buy in from certain stakeholders, but in reality many felt rewarded by the opportunity to champion elements of the project and the opportunity for self-development that went with it.

When considering what may prompt individuals to act, respond or behave in a certain way, neuroscientist, Evian Gordon suggests that much of our motivation driving social behaviour is governed by an overarching principle of minimising threat and maximising reward.  These fundamental principles of threat and reward in the context of human behaviour are explored further by David Rock in accordance with five social domains; status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and fairness (SCARF).

Rock argues that the smooth running of a workplace is not based on a straightforward transactional relationship between employer and employee, it is a much more complex social organism.  Understanding the role that each of the social domains plays can help leaders avoid practices that trigger counterproductive threat responses and in change scenario have the potential to derail a project.

Again, thinking about our financial services client’s dilemma, what neuroscience tells us is that fairness as perceived by an individual in the workplace can produce more dopamine – the brain’s reward response – than money.  Another example is the the impact certainty or lack of it can have within a change scenario.  In the absence of certainty, individuals tend to speculate, a threat response is triggered leading to feelings of stress and anxiety.  High certainty is likely to trigger a reward response which contributes to a reduction in anxiety even if the facts deliver bad news.  This underlines the importance of minimising uncertainty during change to reduce the potential for any feelings of anxiety and negative associations which then may travel through the organisation.

As specialists in change and engagement, the fields of emotional intelligence and neuroscience provide us with invaluable insights when implementing change initiatives for our clients.  These fields of knowlege provide the ability to understand and to a certain extent, predict human behaviour, which is quite possibly the most powerful tool available to those wishing to implement successful change.

This thought-piece is taken from a major report we’ve just completed which explores routes to improving engagement and harnessing the power of stakeholders in a change scenario. Ask us for more details.

Jennie Flower, Business Development Director, Minerva Engagement
Minerva Engagement improves business from the inside out.  View more blogs from Minerva Engagement or follow us on Twitter @MinervaEngage