Most of us know that we can bring a horse to water, but we can’t force the horse to drink. Ah…but we can salt the oats! What does that mean? Well, for those of us who aren’t used to horsing around, oats are what horses get fed. Besides the green, green grass you see in the movies. “Salting the oats” is an expression meaning “to work up a thirst” or “to work up an appetite for”. Remember, hunger and thirst are natural. Appetite is learned. And one of the critically important functions of effective leaders is to develop healthy appetites in the people we lead. It’s not as easy as you might think, though!
How do you develop healthy appetites in people who already have appetites of their own, and whose appetites have been around for several years, in many cases? Well, to use the well-worn SPIN method:
Situation: Get buy-in on the current situation of your people vis-a-vis your organization. Ask open-ended questions to help people see their genuine state of affairs at present.
Problem: Is there pain anywhere? Ask your people what they don’t like. Then, flip it around to ask what they do like. Personally, I prefer to call these, not “problem” questions, but “possibility” questions.
Implication: Ask about the effects of the problem, or pain. Then, again, flip it around and ask about the effects of the possibilities. Don’t simply ask about the seriousness of the problem, explore the great benefits of the possibilities!
Need: Ask questions in such a manner as to elicit descriptions of needs from your people. Follow-up with questions about how those needs can be met. Let the answers come from your people, and buy-in will be a lot stronger. Manipulative? It can be, of course, but it depends on your motivations. If you truly desire your people to develop and your organization to grow in an organic and sustainable fashion, then you are manifesting the quality of persuasiveness, which, as Character First! defines it, is “Guiding vital truth around another’s mental roadblocks”.
So…want some oats? Take some salt as well, and go for a SPIN!