Try adding an “N” to the WIIFM

What’s In It For ME (WIIFM)?  The magic acronym of persuasion.  Throughout my career I’ve been told that these five letters are the key to getting someone to adopt change, buy-in to training, or follow my lead.  I don’t disagree.  Helping someone see the personal benefit in a situation goes a long way in getting them on board.  However, it’s not enough.

Many approaches to managing change work under an assumption of a rational human mind.  If you give people a good reason to do something and the tools (knowledge, skills, rewards) to get it done, they’ll do it.  But there’s a catch.  People aren’t rational.  If driving change were as easy as a clear WIIFM and tools, no one would be overweight or smoke and we’d all be using the metric system.

The problem is that our brain is designed to survive rather than thrive.  In other words, while people will always welcome an easier procurement process or a new system that will save them time and money, it’s not their main focus.  Remember Maslow? You don’t get to the warm and fuzzy stuff like belonging and self-actualization without first addressing your survival needs (food, shelter safety).

Managing change and people is the same.  Before you tell them the benefits, you need to ensure them that they will survive.  I suggest you add an “N” for “NOT” to the WIFFM.  What’s not in it for me?

  • You aren’t going to lose your job
  • We aren’t going to waste your time
  • You aren’t going to look stupid, get a poor performance review or lose credibility if you don’t get it right the first time
  • You aren’t going to lose your status in the organization
  • Your value in the organization isn’t going to be discarded or minimized even if we aren’t using your exact skill set any longer
  • You aren’t going to be subject to unfair new rules and processes
  • etc

Before someone is even willing to pay attention to how they’ll benefit, they need to understand that they’ll “survive”.  This is the part that is often overlooked.

Helping people through change isn’t just about enabling them to do something different.  It’s really about assuring them that they will be safe and secure in making the leap.

Avail Advisors can help you manage change more effectively.  We’ll show you where your people are lost, what information is missing or confusing, and what real or perceived threats they are facing. Then we’ll help you develop a plan to overcome those issues.  Learn more about how we can help you at

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