Change Management and Focus

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

Change management is mostly about influence. When we speak, do others listen with interest? Often, we undermine our own presentations by paying attention to the wrong things. I have seen too many speakers tend to their slides, and forget their audiences.


I was studying theater improve with Keith Johnstone, one of the leaders of that art. He asked if we wanted to know why we got stage fright. Of course we wanted to know. He said that we were more concerned about looking good than connecting with our partner in the scene. If we paid attention to our partner, we would be more available to offer good lines to him or her and build a scene.


Shortly after that workshop, I was giving a speech to a new client. I started getting nervous as I presented some aspect of resistance to change that I had talked about many times before. I realized that I was more concerned with making sure I covered everything, kept within the allotted time, and told the right stories, than I was with connecting to the audience. So I shifted my attention to a few people sitting around the room. Although I didn’t change what I said very much, I began paying attention to those people to see if I was being clear, and if they were with me. After the speech, people asked how long I had worked for their organization. I looked at my watch. Not counting prep time, the answer was about an hour. They were amazed because they said I seemed to understand them so well. I am certain that the simple shift of focus was key. I try to remember Keith’s words when I am making a presentation to one person or a hundred people, and when I coach my own clients who are leading change in their organizations. Hope this helps.