C.A.V.E Citizens Against Virtually Everything. Jack Schultz from BoomTown Institute coined this term. He shared it with me in our conversation on BlogTalk Radio. You can listen in streaming on-demand at this link.
C.A.V.E. Dwellers. They dwell openly or in hiding within most organizations. These are the naysayers, the nattering nabobs of negativity**, the expert marksmen who shoot down every idea with a question or a doubt or a snark or sarcasm or poignant pause. They are expert in all the reasons things don't work, won't work, never will work. They rarely use that skill to see things that work, did work, and will work. Their perceived intelligence masks the walls and obstacles they build in their world.
They can keep your organization in the Stone Ages. They can emerge from their dark, dank, dwellings, to drag your organization back to the Stone Ages.
And, you can't change anyone. You can inspire. You can offer the resources. You can remove obstacles. You can create a culture where change is embraced. But, you can't change anyone. You can't force C.A.V.E Dwellers to come out of their caves and live with you as you lead your organization through the changes needed to not only survive, but even thrive.
Now. There are things you can do to entice C.A.V.E Dwellers out of their caves. Here's a few:
* Offer them food.
Ok, maybe not literally. But you can offer them incentives that are meaningful to them. (Maybe food is meaningful...)
Them is the operative word. How many organizations offer incentives to employees that are meaningful to their CFO or their shareholders, but not to the employees? And those incentives failed to generate the desired results.
Reward the right behavior. The right reward for the right behavior.
* Entice them to take small steps.
CAVE Dwellers are easily spooked and provoked. Encourage them to take baby-steps away from their darkness. Reward them with those meaningful incentives with each step towards the light.
* Create a safe environment
CAVE Dwellers are easily spooked and provoked. Our ancestors include them. So, we carry that DNA.
Different environments can manifest our DNA as, awaken our own internal, CAVE Dwellers.
Creating a safe environment for change and learning is good for everyone. Create an environment that loves the first mistake. And loves learning from that first mistake. Together.
CAVE Dwellers are great learners. The issue is what they've learned (mistakes are bad; you're punished for mistakes; stupid people make mistakes...) and the habits that were reinforced.
Instead, create an environment that teaches how to first share ideas and the occasional mistakes among them. Then create the process that teaches from those mistakes. Then teach them that new process.
* Ban the recidivists
You can't change people. You can create an environment where their change is welcomed and supported. But you can't change them.
Ban from your group the C.A.V.E. Dwellers who insist they want to remain as C.AV.E Dwellers. It's where they want to remain. Only unhappiness and failed organizations result when CAVE Dwellers are forced to remain among others.
Be safe. Carry a torch.
** Nattering nabobs of negativity was one of the prized quotes from our former Vice-President, Spiro Agnew.
If you want to know more ways to engage with your employees, my book RECOGNIZE THEM: 52 Ways to Recognize Your Employees in Ways They Value offers 52 ways to recognize your employees, easy exercises to reinforce those habits and skills and inspirational quotes to keep you going.