We all want a formula for change. We get a fairly regular request here at MillsWyck Communications, usually initiated from the contact form on our website (Weirdly enough, the most common times for inquiries are Friday night and Saturday morning!?).  It’s usually very short and to the point.

  • I am interested in public speaking training.
  • I want to improve my speaking skills
  • I am very much in need of public communication training. Presentation coaching including impromptu communication (essentially Q&A response critique and coaching).
  • I am interested in speaking with you regarding on-site training for our executive team and key Directors to improve their public speaking skills. 
  • Hi, I am looking to take a public speaking class. 

Rarely any details.  No deadlines.  I just need some help.

This is the reality for most of us in so many areas of our life.  We need help.  We want (need?) some sort of change. We want a formula for change. It may be in our working efficiency, our eating habits, our sales technique, an increase in patience, or our golf game.  But we recognize that our current path is not taking us where we need to go.

When it comes to speaking, the email we receive is the most critical step in the process.  It shows a desire to get better.  That’s key.

I found out why through my work with 3Dimensional Coaching.  It’s called the Formula For Change. It even has its own Wikipedia page, so you know it’s legit. It was created by David Gleicher in the organizational change methodologies of the 1960s and revived and revised in the 1980s by Kathie Dannemiller. I’ve found it to apply to so many areas of life and really explain why humans get stuck.

The formula for change has several forms.  I ascribe to this one…

formula for change

D = Discontent

Change is initiated by dissatisfaction.  Whether it’s leaving your country to start a new one (e.g. 1609), losing weight, building a new house, or hiring/firing an employee, a contempt for the current situation starts the process.  For speakers, it’s usually a traumatic event or public failure that fans the flames of discontent.

But discontent is not enough.  There are plenty of people filling social media with all the ways they hate society but do little to change it; self-deprecating humor is easier than a diet; the details required to move are overwhelming; and the fear of the unknown can keep an HR department from even asking for applications.  

As a consultant for both speakers and athletic programs, the dangerous phrase I hear is “I don’t think I’m really horrible” or “our culture isn’t THAT bad.”  If it’s not bad enough, it’s unlikely to change.

V = Vision

Not only does change require a healthy and significant distaste for the current situation, it needs a picture of what could be in the future.

Vision is a tricky word.  When we think of it in the medical sense, it’s about what our eyes can take in – our view of the current reality.  But visionary vision requires the ability to see something that does not (currently) exist.  It requires an imagination and creativity.  The more precise and concrete the vision, the more it can be shared and picked up by others.  Saying “I want to lose some weight” is not a vision you’ll remember at the buffet.  Having a specific weight by a specific time and a mental picture of how many abs you will see in the mirror or a time you expect to run a mile has a chance.  Vision requires specificity.

FS = First Steps

You can hate the current situation and have a great picture of what could be.  But you can’t move into a concept drawing, lead a revolution from your living room, or expect a paper job description to get to work.  Action is required.  And action is hard.  What’s the first step?  

Last year when we moved into a new house the list of details that required attention was daunting.  Landscaping, shelving, organizing, change of address forms, cleaning… where to begin?  Looking at the list was paralyzing.  But grabbing a shovel and a hoe got the needle moving.  Yes, I had to prioritize (sheets on the bed is a good first step – I’ll need to sleep tonight!).  But action was key to my morale and also critical to getting the list reduced. Side note: there is still plenty of landscaping to do, but just last week I checked off “landscape lighting”  — a task I dreaded because I’m not an electrician and didn’t know totally how to do it.  Imagine my surprise and somewhat embarrassment when the task was completed in less than an hour and worked perfectly when I turned the system on.

You can have mountains of discontent, a vision that is precise to the nanometer and millisecond, and a great and implementable plan and still not get the change you want.  Because all that has to be greater than…

R = Resistance

Resistance is what will keep the change from happening.  It comes in many forms: other people with power, our own will and mindset, external circumstance and limitations, and overwhelming bureaucracy.  Identifying the source of resistance is key to overcoming it, but at its core, increasing the product of Discontent, Vision, and First Steps is the best way to overcome the inertia of resistance. 

The good news is this: change is doable, even by mere mortals. Great things can happen when we are able to combine our discontent, formulate a vision and a plan, and reduce or overcome the resistance to our dreams.

What do you want to change?

Communication matters. What are you saying?


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This article was published in the October edition of our monthly speaking tips email newsletter, Communication Matters. Have speaking tips like these delivered straight to your inbox every month. Sign up today to receive our newsletter and receive our FREE eBook, “Twelve Tips that will Save You from Making a Bad Presentation.”  You can unsubscribe at any time.

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