Talking at someone about Sustainability is NOT engagement
This morning I had an interesting chat with an old business contact about Sustainability engagement. We got into the psychology of change and in particular dealing with that pervasive myth that individual action does not make a difference to carbon emissions. Quite the contrary, if individuals don’t change then nothing changes.
The problem is we all like to believe we are not the problem. If people feel they are being forced into change, they resist. The emotional part of their brain bullies the logical part of their brain into making (often stupid) arguments for not changing. There is always an excuse to do nothing – and I must have heard most of them!
The answer is not to try to persuade people that they are part of the problem, but rather to persuade them that they are part of the solution. If you’ve ever been on one of my workshops, you will know that I start by asking people why their organisation needs to embrace Sustainability. It would be much quicker to tell them, but their natural reaction would be to challenge my assertion. If I ask them, they will think more deeply and, importantly, believe their own answers. You get that emotional-level engagement you almost never get with a Powerpoint presentation.
This simple flip from tell to ask is the basis of all my engagement – in fact the basis of most of my consultancy. If I’m developing a strategy, I get the organisation’s decision makers to sketch out what that strategy would look like and then I fill in the gaps. Ownership is baked into the process. Strategy implementation? More workshops, this time with the people who will have to do the implementing.
I’ve said it a gazillion times, Sustainability is ultimately about psychology.