Welcome to Bob Faw’s Energize Performance blog. Bob’s passion is to guide positive transformation. Through his personal and professional life experiences Bob developed a keen interest in pragmatic and science based approaches. He has been a longtime advocate of focusing on solutions and learning while having fun, concepts that are increasingly supported by recent neuroscience studies about enhanced brain functioning and performance. This blog is to gather and share his guidance and share best practices, inspirational examples, and creative ideas of others about positive transformation at work, in personal life, and in the world.
Priming for Human Resource Pros
As in many jobs, you in HR have the huge challenge of influencing people without being able to simply tell them what to do. Because you are usually not the direct manager of the people you are working with, you will often find yourself in a situation where you have to manage up—you have to convince people above you in the organization about how decisions are going to affect employees.
Another unique challenge for you HR pros is finding the balance between helping people fulfill their potential and holding them accountable. And if all of this weren’t challenging enough, you also have to help guide change you didn’t initiate. Whew!
Many of these situations apply to other managers as well, but you HR pros have some very interesting challenges when it comes to managing the dynamics of people.
In my book, Energize, I talk about the three characters in your mind that are necessary for motivation. You HR pros have to be good at doing all three:
Calming the Cavemen
On a daily basis, you are going to have someone (or a group of someones) in your office who need calming. Since the cavemen part of our brains—the survival instinct—is always looking for threats, this can result in rigidity, irrationality and overreaction. When you encounter employees with an overactive caveman response, you must help them calm their fears, straighten out misconceptions, come up with solutions to their challenges, or simply find a positive attitude if they are angry. HR pros need to be able to empathize as part of calming people down.
Convincing the Thinker
The thinker is the part of the brain that is able to think clearly, consider the future, and process complex ideas. As an HR pro, you need to be able to help convince the thinker when it comes to your colleagues. To do this when managing up, make sure you have facts to back up your suggestions. Talking about how to positively affect the bottom line will make managers more open to your ideas. When it comes to motivating employees around change or resolving issues, you can use tools such as listing long-term benefits for achieving a challenge and brainstorming multiple plans and consequences. If employees feel like they are part of a solution, they are more apt to participate in it.
Energizing the Artist
Being able to activate the artist in others is a powerful motivational skill. The artist fuels our passion for things we feel deeply about. When you’re guiding change, it’s especially beneficial to help people tap into their artists. You can do this by identifying how the change applies to their passions and values, as well as highlighting the benefits of the change for their jobs and duties.
One of the key things to remember when guiding or influencing change is that motivating people around the change is critical. When we are overworked and life is hectic, it can be easy to treat change like a transaction, and simply tell people that they must do it. That occasionally works with some people, but usually backfires if employees don’t understand the need for the change and aren’t emotionally invested in it.
Being in HR is in some ways like being a parent. A big portion of your job is trying to influence. (But one hint here: Don’t ever think of your employees as children, even though they may act like it from time to time!)
If you’d like to chat more about HR challenges, I would love to help. And check out these additional blog posts to watch fun videos on how to Calm the Caveman, Convince the Thinker and Energize the Artist.
Early in my career, I was leading a training in my usual extrovert style—talking loudly, getting people interacting and laughing—when I noticed one attendee who was barely participating. He was sitting in the corner, staring at me intently with his arms folded. Because of my negativity bias I assumed that he must be judging me as a poor trainer. After all, I reasoned, if he thought it was a good training he would be interacting with the rest of us, right? Thankfully I caught myself before I started acting coldly toward him and ignoring him. Instead I decided instead to prime myself by assuming (playing an inner movie) that he was getting a lot out of the workshop. That helped me make sure I was making eye contact with him and giving him the same attention as the rest of the group. After the workshop he came up to me. I was steeling myself for negative feedback, but he said, “Thank you. That was one of the most interesting workshops I’ve ever been to, and I learned a lot.” This was before I knew about introverts and extroverts, and that his staring at me quietly and intently was his version of high engagement. And to think, I came this close to blowing it!
This situation taught me so many lessons! When you’re teaching people, it can be very easy to focus on how you want them to react, what they’re not able to do, the difficult aspects of getting them to understand the concept, or the deficits in their capabilities. This tendency comes from the caveman part of our brain, which is irrational and reactive. I now see that negativity in a learning situation often starts with the instructor.
There has been some fascinating research that shows when people are first learning a new skill, they learn better if negative influences are minimized and the atmosphere is highly positive. The idea behind this is that positive interactions surrounding a new activity will increase positive feelings toward that experience and open you up to enhanced learning abilities. It also keeps us focused on what to do, and less distracted worrying about what not to do.
The same research shows that when people have mastered a skill, they will improve more if they actually receive a higher degree of negative feedback. How interesting!
It makes sense: When you have aptitude in a subject, you possess a higher degree of confidence because of it, so constructive criticism isn’t such a blow to your ego; instead it’s an opportunity to fine-tune your abilities. Yet when you’re just starting a new activity, it can be tempting to give up if the process is steeped in negativity.
Here are a few tips to make learning positive and prime yourself to teach others more effectively.
Watch What You Say
As the one teaching a skill, you can help create a positive learning environment by giving people feedforward—giving them ideas for future success, instead of just telling them how they did in the past. Utilizing the power of feedforward instead of simply telling people what not to do can be extremely effective.
You can even facilitate the process with the words you choose. A lot of times we may say something like, “I want to help you get better.” But when you say that, the caveman part of the person’s brain takes over and starts an inner dialogue that says, “You think I’m not good.”
Instead, try saying, “I want to help you get even better.” This reframe plays a different inner movie for the listener. It implies that they are already good, and adding that one word goes a long way to build on their confidence.
Build on Strengths Instead of Eliminating Gaps
You’ll find that people are a lot less defensive when you build on their strengths versus assuming that they have gaps in skill. In fact, once I started using this approach, I learned that much of the time I had been wrong about the gaps I’d assumed.
Use the Chameleon Effect
When you’re teaching with the expectation that your audience is going to be able to understand the topic and excel, this belief comes across in your body language and facial expressions, as well as the tools and opportunities you give people.
Teaching others well starts with priming yourself. Setting high expectations for their capabilities will cause you to treat them in a way that builds confidence and is more likely to build upon their strengths. This phenomenon is called the chameleon effect because people often adapt to our expectations.
Use Positive Emotion as Learning Glue
Another interesting fact is that emotion helps our memories work better. The more emotional we are when we experience something, the more likely we are to remember it. If you reflect back on many of your most vivid memories, you will probably find that there is an emotion—positive or negative—tied to it.
When you’re teaching, if you can help your students associate the topic with a success story in their lives, it will tie to their strong emotions and help them remember the topic. No matter how good your content is, people only learn it if they’re engaged, so how you present it to them is as important as the quality of the content itself.
Hopefully these tips will be helpful the next time you need to teach someone. I would love to hear about your experiences with teaching and how you positively prime yourself to help others learn. Simply comment below or connect with me on social media and share.
And if you’re looking for inspiration, or just a chuckle, check out our shareable memes.