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Seven Simple Steps From Can’t to Can


Every organization has “can’t do” people in it. Their first words are no, can’t, or won’t. Successful leaders change can’t to can.

Real influence:

Coercion creates conformity; influence transforms.

Incompetent leaders pressure; skillful leaders influence.

Inept leaders us power, authority, and position to intimidate. Influential leaders move people from can’t to can by changing what people believe, think, and feel.

Seven steps:

  1. Stop pressuring people to change. You can’t change someone only they can. Peter Senge wisely said, “People don’t resist change, they resist being changed.”
  2. Go back to rule number one until you believe it!
  3. Give acceptance to gain acceptance. Their beliefs come before yours. Listen to understand. Understanding isn’t a contest; acceptance isn’t agreement.
  4. Pull back when they pull back. Create space for change. Pressure creates resistance.
  5. Identify and agree on a core point of resistance. State a sticking point. Do they nod in agreement?
  6. *Ask, “Can we fix this?” Say nothing more. Shhh! Wait! Thinking instantly shifts if they say, “Yes.”
  7. Ask, “What’s the next step?” after “Yes.”

“Yes” changes the brain.


Pressured people explain reasons it can’t be done and why it won’t work. Their brains are busy defending “no.”

People who believe it won’t work
find reasons it won’t work.

Changing Thinking:

The moment someone says, “Yes, we can fix this,” their thinking irresistibly, inevitably changes. “Yes” shifts brains from can’t or won’t to can and how.

You can’t say, “Yes, we can fix this,”
without also thinking how.


What happens when they say, “No, we can’t fix this?” Find “yes” somewhere else. Ask, “Is there something we can fix?”

Only an UNbullied “yes” changes can’t to can.


*The first time I saw, “Can we fix this?” was in, “To Sell is Human,” by Daniel Pink.

Bonus material:

Facebook contributors share their insights on dealing with negative thinkers. 4/12/13

Blog post: Something Better than “I Think I Can”

How can leaders change “can’t do” to “can do?”

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