Tony Robbins is well known for his motivational speaking, books, interviews and articles. A consistent theme in his work is the six human needs.
1. Certainty: assurance you can avoid pain and gain pleasure
2. Uncertainty/Variety: the need for the unknown, change, new stimuli
3. Significance: feeling unique, important, special or needed
4. Connection/Love: a strong feeling of closeness or union with someone or something
5. Growth: an expansion of capacity, capability or understanding
6. Contribution: a sense of service and focus on helping, giving to and supporting others
In his article “The 6 Human Needs: Why We Do What We Do,” Robbins explains “all behavior is simply an attempt to meet this six needs.
“The force of life is the drive for fulfillment. . .” ~ Tony Robbins
In the Lean world we advocate continuous improvement. This means continuous change. Common challenges in Lean transformation is a lack of buy-in and a lack of sustainment.
People are not really resistant to change. According to Robbins’ second human need (variety), there is actually a need for change. So, why is it so common to encounter resistance to improvements (changes) at work?
“. . .We all have a need to experience a life of meaning.” ~ Tony Robbins
Changes made within an organization are changes made to people. How the changes are implemented can make the difference between fulfillment and emptiness for the associates involved. Think about changes as they relate to the Six Human Needs.
Pitfalls of leadership forcing change on employees
1. Certainty. A change can challenge a person’s sense of certainty in that it can cause the fear of experiencing pain when pleasure or at least security or consistency is expected.
2. Uncertainty/Variety. This might be satisfied when a person is in some control of the changes being made. Think about going on a road trip. We don’t know what we’ll experience around the next bend, but we’ll enjoy the adventure. After all, we’re in the driver’s seat.
3. Significance. When changes are decided by one group of people and dictated to another group, the latter can instantly feel insignificant. Being left out of the conversation could communicate distrust or not valuing input. In a way, it says “you’re not needed to participate in the thinking or decision making process.” This is particularly risky because the best ideas often come from people who work in the process being changed day-in and day-out.
4. Connection/Love. Being left out of the process instantly disconnects people by dividing them into two camps: those inside the inner circle and those outside. This could build distrust and resentment.
5. Growth. Not being involved in the decision making or change planning process treats people like they are just a pair of hands instead of a pair of hands connected to a brain (an idea borrowed from Kevin Meyer). There’s no opportunity to learn and grow professionally. There’s no fulfillment in simply being told what to do.
6. Contribution. Keeping people out of the decision making process robs them of the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to the organization. Simple labor is the least meaningful contribution a person can make when it comes to continuous improvement. The gold is in the ideas.
Any of these pitfalls could at best prevent buy-in and at worst create a deep sense of resentment.
Help people meet their human needs in a continuous improvement environment
1. Be predictable and inclusive in your change process. Let everyone know the target you’re trying to hit before any ideas are collected or decisions are made.
2. Let people benefit from the variety of the changes to be made by allowing them to contribute ideas and take some control of certain aspects of the change.
3. Allow people to contribute. All ideas are good ideas. Even if not all ideas can be implemented, simply considering an idea can help make someone feel important or needed. Show appreciation for the thoughts and efforts people offer.
4. Create a sense of connection by allowing people to rise to a challenge together. People relying on each other builds bonds and camaraderie.
5. Resist the urge to tell people how things should be done. Also resist the temptation to directly answer questions when possible. Ask questions in return instead. People won’t grow unless they are challenged to think for themselves.
6. Know when to lead, when to follow and when to get out of the way. Oftentimes, people are able to make their greatest contributions when they have the freedom to work without supervision. Give them some space.
Remember that the improvement being made now is not the end goal. It is simply the step that will position you for the next step in your Lean journey. By helping people meet these needs you help them have meaningful and fulfilling lives. If that’s done well, continuous improvement can gain momentum that will be difficult to stop.