Revolutions are more disruptive than resolutions because they imply a long term turnover in the status quo. Revolutions compound the energy of the revolutionary, and energy is contagious. Revolutions demand courage because their impact is often public in nature. I have launched my own revolution for 2016, leaving a large company for self-employment. My energy level is through the roof, and is evident in my self-talk, in my proposals, and in my workshops with clients. Today I want to explore the idea of starting a revolution by examining a case in point: a new detective on his first murder case.
Step 1: The Courage to Embrace the First Step
All revolutions begin with strategic action.
I watched a murder investigation on TV. An experienced investigator worked on a witness for about an hour, verbally dancing with her in a relatively benign game of cat and mouse. The experienced fellow gave up and left the interview room. A new detective, who had been watching the dialogue via camera, respectfully asked for a chance to speak with the witness. The veteran investigator, a veritable hulk of a man, shrugged his shoulders and said, “Sure.” The young detective walked into the room.
He introduced himself to the young woman, reaching his hand toward her. She extended her own in an uncertain fashion, eyeing him suspiciously. They shook hands. And then, the game changer occurred. He didn’t release her hand. He sat down, eye to eye with her, and talked to her about how frightening it would be to speak the truth, and that he promised to support her on the difficult journey to do the right thing. He said he knew she was lying, and he said it nicely (he did know – they had evidence.) He said that he just wanted to hear her side of the story because it mattered to him. 90 seconds later, he had the information he wanted: the names of the two people who had committed the murder.
Outside the interview room, the veteran detective’s jaw dropped as he watched the conversation unfold via video camera. He said, “Oh my God, I worked on her for an hour and got nothing!” A sympathetic colleague laughed and suggested that “he had laid the foundation” for the youngster to succeed.
Why was one person more successful than the other? The young detective had done something that the veteran had failed to do: he formed a human connection. Once it was formed, he did not do or say anything to break it. She felt it, needed it, and opened up to him. It was a technique that worked in her case.
It took courage for the younger detective to ask for the opportunity, and then embrace it. He took the first step, and it paid off. The revolution, for him, was underway.
Step 2: Get Up After You Fail
All revolutions have setbacks.
Shortly thereafter, the murder suspect was in custody. The same new detective was given the chance to obtain a confession. On camera, he shares how nervous he is, and admits that this is his first opportunity to interview a murder suspect. His mentor tells him to relax, and just do his thing. The young man walks in and makes six or seven attempts to form a connection with the suspect. Guess what? It was one the fastest failures I’ve ever seen. I was laughing as I watched, because if it had been a football game, the detective would have lost 50 – 0 in less than two minutes. The murder suspect was completely unmoved by the detective’s human-oriented, conversational technique. The suspect didn’t seek a human connection and he wasn’t offering one. The detective walked out with his tail between his legs. He received support and encouragement from his team (revolutionaries do need encouragement!)
Two points of differentiation. The detective did not have the benefit of watching the suspect on video before he went in. In the previous example, he collected data on the female witness while the veteran detective interviewed her. He had already absorbed and processed certain cues. The second time, he went in blind. The other point of differentiation lies in the likelihood of success. It is possible that no technique would have convinced the suspect to speak. But almost certainly, the human approach was unlikely to achieve the desired outcome.
It was a learning experience for the young investigator, and he accepted his setback with a “next time” mentality. This is critical. You cannot give up when you fall. If you do, you are robbing yourself of your future success. This leads us to our next point.
Step 3: Try, try, try again
Revolutionaries are notoriously persistent.
The second murder suspect is located. He has heard about the arrest of the first fellow, and smartly checks himself into a drug rehab in another state. The young detective and his boss head off to visit him. Our revolutionary is given a second chance to interview a murder suspect. He repeats the human angle, speaking to the “pain that I know you have in your heart” and referring to the courage it takes to seek help for drug problems. He touches the man’s shoulder as he talks to him, asking for information about what happened on that terrible day. The suspect slowly begins to open up. At first, he denies shooting anyone, but eventually, through firm but kind dialogue, he admits to his role in the crime. The young detective again used the common ground of their humanity to get to the truth.
The family of the murdered man received the justice they were seeking. The criminals were off the street. The leader of the homicide division learns that he has a new weapon in their arsenal: a detective who is gifted in the art of the soft stuff.
Step 4: Know and leverage your strengths
What makes this detective a revolutionary? He’s an outsider. He didn’t come from a police force. He came from the Missing Persons division. The new homicide detective had years and years of experience in forming connections to help solve problems, of having empathy for the victims and their families, of never giving up in the face of a dead end. He brings a compassionate approach to a traditionally unsympathetic environment and gets people to talk.
From a StrengthsFinder standpoint, maybe he has Empathy. Maybe he has Connectedness. Maybe he has Restorative. Maybe he has Responsibility. Maybe he has Analytical. Maybe he has Significance. Whatever his strengths, he is true to his gifts. He was authentic in all situations, even when it didn’t work out. Authenticity is attractive. People who know themselves are confident in a way that The Great Pretenders can never be. Over time – and we are in revolutionary mode, so we are thinking strategically – authenticity wins the day. Placed in the right situations and developing his strengths with experience and intent, our detective has the potential to achieve breakthrough performance in his role.
My 2016 New Year’s Revolution
The last time we spoke, I was still part of a large company. That burden is off my shoulders, and I feel a tremendous sense of relief. My strengths-based success business is going well. I am happily engaging with wonderful clients in multiple parts of the country. My book is in its final stages of editing. I’m working with a young entrepreneur, still in high school, who has created a remarkable invention (more on him soon!) I helped a young man get into grad school. I’m working with the Cranbrook Hockey Team again! I’m starting a StrengthsFinder revolution in all kinds of places! Every day, I am using my strengths – Ideation, Strategic, Learner, Achiever, Individualization and Maximizer, to name a few – to help people accomplish what they were put on this earth to achieve. It’s not easy, but it sure is fun!
What About You?
If you started a New Year’s Revolution today, what would it look like? What would you want people to feel? What strengths would you use? What does a wildly successful 2016 look like? (My friend Vicki Flaherty just asked me that question!)
Take the first step. Get up when you fall. Keep trying. Know and hone your strengths with measurable outcomes. Use these four guidelines to support you on your journey – and remember –it is never too late to start. You’ve been training for this moment your whole life.
Ideation | Strategic | Learner | Achiever | Individualization | Maximizer