Pivot around values: How to change our practices, without changing our values

Picture this. A founder assembles their team first thing in the morning and shares a brilliant new idea.

Objectively, it's a promising idea. It has the potential to unlock the coveted product market fit and fix the company's perpetual cash flow problem.

But the team is confused.

They are nearly done collecting and analyzing the test data for their founder's previous brilliant idea. So far, the trends look promising. Not life-altering, mind you, but promising.

Moreover, their founder was enthusiastic about their previous idea. And the two times before that as well.

The team is not just confused now; they are concerned.

They are concerned that the founder is not setting a clear direction. That their new ideas are coming faster than they could be adequately tested. That there's too much chaos and uncertainty!

Sounds familiar?

I've heard a similar story from a client a few weeks ago.

The client brought it up because they shared their concerns with the founder, and it wasn't received well. The client wanted to know how they could better persuade the founder to stop sharing their half-baked ideas.

Unfortunately, the founder heard their values of transparency and shared responsibility being questioned by my client's feedback. They believed that they involved their team in the decision-making process by sharing their ideas early. What's wrong with that?

A few weeks ago, I read Andrew Hopkins saying, "It's easier to change people's practices than to change their values."

Indeed, it's so hard to change people's values that, for all practical purposes, we can call it impossible. It makes sense to focus on practices.

Unfortunately, often, when we try to change other people's practices, we inadvertently question their values.

If you've spent enough time around me, you've probably heard me ask, "Do you have a pretty good idea what's motivating this behavior?"

Changing people's minds is not about persuading them that they are wrong. It's about understanding what motivates their current view of the world and their behavior.

You have two options.

You can give them feedback in the form of Situation—Behavior—Impact. And hope that's sufficient for them to alter their behavior.

Or, you can tactfully and genuinely ask them what values drive their behavior. Then, help them find a different practice that still aligns with their values but avoids the problematic side effects.

I call this pivoting practices around values.