Changing mindsets – the biggest hurdle

A few weeks ago, I was part of a panel discussion on Diversity & Inclusion organised by Everywoman. The one common barrier/hurdle we identified in moving the needle in this area was ‘rigid mindsets.’ Mindsets that were perhaps based on traditions, culture, patriarchal systems, and the unwillingness to take risks by hiring women in typically male dominated roles. This situation is however not limited to Corporates or organisations. It is also the story in many other occupations. Take agriculture for example. The woman farmer who is the backbone for farming activities is completely missing when it comes to decision making or market access. Close your eyes and picture a farmer – I can guarantee that the visual that comes to your mind is that of a male farmer. This is just an illustration of how biased the human mind can be.

The communications function is one that partners with all the other verticals and businesses of the organisation. It is but natural that communicators encounter different mindsets when they work collaboratively. However, it is also this very function that can play a strong role in overcoming rigid mindsets and getting people to open to new ways of thinking and ideas. Communicators are agents of change and those who understand the power of message and content can shape new discourses that are conducive to promoting and managing reputation.

Bringing about change

How do we then bring about change in discussions and contexts through our work? Whenever there is an occasion to jump into something challenging, it is not uncommon to self-doubt oneself. It is a process that one has to go through. The trick is to not linger on it for long but to find the strength to carry on with risks and uncertainties. No change happens without taking risks.

  • Go for quick wins

It is always prudent to begin with low hanging fruits to gain trust of your partners. Quick wins can quickly consolidate your position and can also propel you to take bigger risks.

  • Go local

Communicators understand the value of employee engagement and the power of employee ambassadorship. Harness the good will of your employees. Form local chapters to facilitate decision making. This works beautifully in a setting where culture and values of an organisation need to be embedded on a continued basis. For instance, organisations can encounter strong employee resistance when it comes to implementing a new office seating culture (hot seats/flexi seating arrangements). By involving employees through local chapters to discuss the pros and cons it becomes easy to devise practical solutions that are a win-win for everyone.

  • Go creative

One does not need to relay on emails and town halls for change to happen. Be creative in your messaging. Over the years, gamification and social media have emerged as strong tools to position key communication messages. Work from home and the virtual setting that we all find ourselves in today has made it easy for us to embrace social media.

  • Stay grounded

It is important that communicators do not lose sight of their key message. Changing mindsets calls for a practical approach. For that, one needs to stay rooted in ground realities and offer solutions that resonate with business and partners. If your organisation is keen to improve its diversity equation by hiring women in sales teams, ensure that your messaging takes into account the current cultural milieu. It is very easy to get swayed with an idealistic approach. The depth of your message however comes from a more reality-based approach.

  • Invest in research

Research. Research. Research. What is the media thinking? How will your stakeholders react to what your organisation says or does out there? How do you ensure your message is aligned with what the audience wants to read and know? Do not undermine the basics of understanding the needs of your audience. Invest in research.

Changing mindsets and overcoming barriers is a work in progress. It calls for undivided attention. As business environments become more volatile, communicators have the skill and the ability to bring about mindset changes and steer and guide their organisations towards a new normal.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sarita Bahl
Sarita Bahl is an alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Sciences and the Swedish Institute of Management Program. An experienced and versatile leader, she comes with nearly four decades of professional experience. She has over the years successfully overseen the communications and public affairs function and led the corporate social responsibility strategy for Bayer South Asia, Pfizer, and Monsanto, among others. Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, the public sector, trade associations, MNCs, and the not-for-profit sector. Her areas of interest include advocacy, stakeholder engagement, sustainability, and communications.

As an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and Senior Practitioner (Mentoring) from the European Council of Mentoring and Coaching (EMCC), Sarita specializes in career transition, inner engineering and life issues. Sarita enjoys writing and is passionate about animals, books, and movies.

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