There’s a certain kind of Natural Consequence that’s more powerful than any other. It’s the consequence that the other person is not aware of. It’s the consequence that you know about, but they don’t.
Often they don’t know about this kind of consequence because it’s beyond their time horizon. You’re thinking of consequences that are further down the road than they can see.
Have you heard the old saying that hard work pays off in the future, but laziness pays off right now? This is what we’re talking about. Sometimes others are just focused on the ‘right now’. By looking ahead you can inform them of the future consequences they haven’t thought of yet.
Sometimes, the other person is limited by their geographic horizon. Maybe there’s a customer they’re not aware of, or another division of the company that’s hidden from them. They’re focused on their own immediate function within their own team. You need to give them information to broaden their perspective.
Lifting The Veil
To get others to see the natural consequences that they don’t already know about, you need to make the invisible visible. My sister-in-law is a high school English teacher who recently saw how powerful it can be to reveal the unknown to inspire a behaviour change.
One day, the school’s caretaker went to the principal with a complaint. The year eight girls were going into the bathroom to put on lipstick and then kissing the mirrors. The smeared lipstick on the mirrors was extremely tough to remove. He asked the principal to help put a stop to it. As you’d expect, the principal agreed.
That day, the principal addressed the entire school through the PA system. She said, “Excuse me, it’s come to our attention that girls are smearing lipstick on the mirrors in the girls’ bathroom. It’s got to stop.”
Do you think the problem stopped? Of course not. It got worse.
After another week of lipstick continuing to show up on the mirrors, the caretaker went to my sister-in-law. He said, “I think I’ve got a way to get these girls to stop smearing lipstick on the mirror. I want to show them just how hard it is to remove it. I need your help. Can you find four or five of the older girls that the rest of the class looks up to and have them meet me in the girls’ bathroom over lunch? I’d like to give them a demonstration of just how hard it is to clean this lipstick off.”
My sister-in-law happily agreed.
At lunchtime, she brought five girls into the bathroom where the caretaker was waiting next to a mirror that had been recently kissed and smeared with the lipstick. He said, “Do you all see this? It’s so tough to remove. Let me show you exactly what I have to do to get this off every time.”
He then took a sponge, walked into a bathroom stall, and dipped in into the toilet! He then started scrubbing the mirror with it.
The girls were horrified! They believed they had been kissing a mirror covered in toilet water the whole time. Needless to say, word spread, and the problem stopped.
By showing them a natural consequence they weren’t aware of, the girls changed their behaviour. They weren’t forced to obey the rules or threatened with consequences. They learned what was previously unknown to them, made the decision to change on their own, and influenced others to follow. This is the power in making the invisible visible.