If you're a regular reader of my blog, you know that the practice of “Motivational Interviewing” has been a big interest of mine for a few years. Although this method comes from the clinical practice of addiction counseling, there are many applications in the workplace.
This week on the Lean Enterprise Institute's “The Lean Post” site, former Toyota leader Ron Oslin is asked about Motivational Interviewing and how leaders might be “addicted to the status quo” (a phrase Ron has trademarked).
Addiction doesn't just mean clinging to bad or selfish behaviors. One clinical definition of addiction is when people keep doing something even though they know it's harmful (like smoking or playing with your smartphone during meetings).
An addict might want to change, but they also have reasons not to. This puts them in a state called “ambivalence” or they're on both sides of the fence, as they say.
Motiviational Interviewing is a method that helps a person articulate their own motivations for change, which increases the odds they will actually change.
This isn't about making people follow your lead. Motivational Interviewing is not used to manipulate somebody into following your path. There are times when we can ethically apply Motivational Interviewing in the workplace when there are aligned goals and needs.
For example, if a nurse manager is struggling with going to do daily “gemba walks,” the manager might say “I know I should do them, but I have trouble making time,” there's an opportunity to ask questions and use other conversational methods that get her talking more about WHY she should do this. Instead of lecturing her that she should do it (which she already knows), you can have an empathetic conversation about change.
If the nurse manager thinks gemba walks are a complete waste of time, you might not use Motivational Interviewing to “convince” her or “get her on the bus.”
Motivational Interviewing is a great way to help somebody who wants to change, but is stuck.
This is great stuff and I love Ron's work in this area. I've taken Ron's full-day workshop on Motivational Interviewing. I've read the books Motivational Interviewing and Motivational Interviewing for Leadership, which I recommend strongly.
The one thing that cannot be emphasized enough to leaders and change agents… the MI methodology is NOT intended to be used to make people go along with your change.
As the summary says:
“convinced themselves to change, based on their own values and interests.”
The Motivational Interviewing for Leadership book emphasizes it's unethical to use these methods when it's pushing something that's not in the interests of the person you're helping. Ron understands this of course… and I want to make sure that's clear to others.
That said, we can find enough win/win situations in the workplace where employee interests are aligned with the organization.
Also, I recommend Ron's LEI webinar on this topic.
And as Ron says in the video, it's more about “helping someone change” rather than “making them change.”
Here are more resources and previous posts on this topic:
What do you think about this? Do you see leaders who are seemingly addicted to their old way of doing things? What can we do to help them help themselves?
Did you like this post? Make sure you don't miss a post or podcast — Subscribe to get notified about posts via email daily or weekly.
Check out my latest book, The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation: