Believe it or not, heating water from -1/2OC to +1/2 OC (1 degree) requires 80 times the energy that is required to heat water from +1 OC to +2 OC (1 degree). Why so much difference? It’s because changing ice to water (-1/2OC to +1/2 OC) requires a change in state. When water changes state (from ice to liquid water or from liquid water to steam), all the energy (80 calories) goes into the state change. None goes into heating the water.
When heating water, it takes 80 times the energy to go from a negative to a positive. It’s not much different when you are working with people. For example, consider a scale that ranges from -5 to +5 and measures influencing skills. If you are coaching someone who feels he is a “-3” on the scale, he’s saying that he feels like he has none of the skill. He’s so bad at it, that he’s in the negative range.
To coach him to the point that he feels he is on the positive side of the scale is going to require enormous amounts of energy on his part and yours. He will actually have to go through a “change in state” – from someone who has no influencing skills to someone who has some. That’s a mental leap across a wide chasm.
But what if you could show him that he already had some of the skill? (as he most certainly does) What if your reminded him that he already uses influencing skills when he’s talking to his peers about a common project or when he comes to you to ask for a better assignment. Then, he doesn’t need a change in state. He just needs to increase what he’s already got.
With water, once you change from ice to liquid water, all the hard work is done. It only requires one calorie per degree to heat the water. With people, the hard work is convincing them that they aren’t working from a state of lack. They already have all the skills they need; they just need to increase them. In effect, what you are doing is resetting the zero on their mental scale. The same amount of influencing skills expressed this way would look like the scale below:
A +2 in the skill is much easier to build on than a -3. Now, he’s got something to work with. There’s an influencing skill muscle in there – he just needs to exercise it to make it stronger.
I frequently hear people make statements of lack such as, “I can’t speak in front of people;” “I can’t ever remember names;” “I’m not a people person;” “I don’t have any leadership ability.” Statements like these allow people to abdicate responsibility for trying to develop these skills. After all, if you don’t even have the raw materials for the skill, it’s not possible to ever have it.
Show them how they already have some of the skill, and you help them make a huge paradigm shift. Instead of “strengths and weaknesses,” they start thinking in “greater and lesser strengths.” Help them to reset their zero, and their eyes will be open to their potential.