Reframe to engage

Reframing is having the insight to interpret events in different ways – Dr. Richard Curwin. Author and educator.

reframe“What is wrong with what we are doing now?” “They don’t understand,”, ” I’m working as hard as I can,” “We tried that before,” “Why didn’t they ask us….”

How you respond when you hear comments like these will determine the success of any change you are leading. The people on your team are key stakeholders and gaining their engagement is a crucial first step for all leaders. Taking a breath, stepping back and refraining from your initial response and then reframing what you are hearing can actually affirm what your people are saying. That affirmation, instead of arguing, will build a foundation for problem-solving and commitment.

Years ago a physician leader told me that reframing her patient’s challenges, struggles and biggest fears was the most powerful tool she possessed to help them make tough changes. By slightly altering her perspective and affirming how hard it is to quit smoking, change eating habits, follow medication protocols or daily activities she became a partner with the patient. Reframing allowed her to focus on the “dedication” it takes to stop smoking for the 10th time, instead lamenting the repeated failures and “promoting” why the patient should quit.  Or to commend a patient for having the courage to share their fears about giving up their favorite food instead of lecturing them on the “vision” of a healthy diet. Recognizing the dedication or focusing on the strength it takes to make changes created a partnership and lead to actual engagement instead of resistance.

Leaders can also reframe what they are hearing from their team, alter their initial interpretations and build engagement. With practice you can actually hear:

  • pride
  • expertise
  • wisdom
  • values and beliefs
  • concerns and potential barriers
  • unexpected complications
  • training needs
  • new ideas

instead of resistance.

When you hear, “what were they thinking” you can respond with, “I value your experience, what ideas to you have?” Listening with a slightly altered frame will engage instead of detach.

What are your people actually saying when they resist? Can you find it?

Todd Thorsgaard





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