Motivating Change

Pursuing change is as much a matter of the heart as it is of the head.

Bob Schultek
Author of
The Gauntlet

Data is necessary for the rational analysis of, and planning for, a pending change; these are functions of

the head. But data does little to address the heart – the emotional disruption, uncertainty, discomfort, or fear – that is integral to implementing change.

When motivating your team to drive a change initiative, or to implement a strategy, revealing only the data is rarely enough to prompt action. Most people have a limited capacity to absorb data; share too much and it begins to sound like noise, with no compelling emotion in it.

Emotions are a necessary element in a change initiative. When paired with convincing data and a clear, thorough understanding of projected benefits, they can be leveraged to focus your team’s energy, to encourage perseverance, and to achieve the commitment and shared ownership required for the change to be successfully realized.

The most proven method for tapping and nurturing the required emotional response is to use stories. When your data, concepts, and benefits are embedded in a supporting narrative, people listen more willingly and closely. The resulting interest and empathy create a sense of meaningfulness within the listeners.

The most motivating stories describe triumphs over trouble, departures from the past, doing what has never been done, or going where no one has ever been. Every story is about challenge and change.

Since urgency is often a component in change initiatives, it’s tempting to induce prompt action by relying only on the data as the most efficient motivational tool. But investing time to craft the right story for the moment, one that merges the crucial data with a persuasive tale, persuasive tale, is the most productive way to launch and sustain a change effort.

How might merging stories and data better motivate your team to act on change?

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