On a summer’s evening in 1988, an explosion shook the structure of an oil drilling platform off the coast of Scotland. Over 120 crew members and rescuers perished in a horrific catastrophe. Only 60 some people survived. The rig superintendent, Andy Mochan remembers being woken up by the tremendous force of the explosion and the subsequent alarms. The only way out was to immediately jump 150 feet into the freezing north sea waters, and risk hypothermia. He did not hesitate, because in his own words “It was jump or fry”.
When at a recent conference in Boston, I heard a facilitated discussion on what the most effective way is to motivate employees to face significant change head-on. While the responses appeared to line up with the personalities of the individuals, and to some degree the industries as well, the response that stuck out most in my mind was that of Michael Treacy, who essentially described the burning platform scenario. Granted, some leaders prefer to lead from the ideal of opportunity based motivation, while others seek to maintain a very blunt and honest view of the risk of inaction.
Whichever your style, motivating change, and building a cogent case for change requires three things:
1. Dissatisfaction with the current state (burning platform or a big opportunity)
2. A clear and compelling vision (a demonstration of bold and insightful leadership)
3. Agreement on the first steps to get there (a logical first step that everyone can agree on)
Now the questions to ask yourself are 1) What is your style, and is it working, and 2) do you see these three elements in how you communication direction to your team or employees?