How many times have you experienced a great learning or insight and returned to your workplace wanting to share it with everyone only to be met with a lukewarm response? This is a common concern we hear from those who attend our Journey Workshops…If only I could give my colleagues at home even a taste of what I experienced, it would open such wonderful new possibilities!
Why is sharing a new vision so difficult? When we leave the cocoon of our everyday work life and enter new possibility space, it’s easy to forget that when we return to where we came from, our peers have not had the benefit of our experience. It’s like returning from a week-long vacation and wondering why everyone else isn’t as positive and energized as you are.
Are you too evangelical? You can be annoying when you come back all gung-ho about change when your peers have been plowing the fields in your absence. I know it can also be tempting, in your heightened enthusiasm, to dump everything that you’ve learned on your colleagues all at once expecting them all to get on board immediately. This can backfire big time!
Here are some tips for facilitating inspired change in your organization in a digestible fashion.
Change starts with you. Start by creating a clear vision of what things will be like once the change you foresee is complete. Find a way of articulating it as simply as possible. Speak about this vision with as many people as possible. Let their words and ideas inspire and refine it so that it gets translated into the local language.
Be the change. It’s really easy to complain about what’s wrong with other people and systems. Direct some of this energy inward and look at your own thoughts and actions that may be at odds with your vision. Aligning thought and action with your vision is the essential first step in the change you seek. Because when you do, your change is now a success, albeit on a small scale.
Don’t assume you don’t have contradictory thoughts and actions. You do, or you wouldn’t be wanting something different. For example…are you ever late for meetings? Do you always keep your word and make amends when you don’t? Do you only speak positively about yourself and others in public and in private? How much time do you spend holding a vision for the possible vs. complaining about what is? Do you fully accept the current situation you’re in or try to avoid it in some way, inwardly or outwardly? In other words, are you fully present for your life as it is? Most of us probably have some of our own change available here. Put at least half your energy for change here.
Don’t expect others to change. Too often people preach change and expect others to obey when they themselves are not modeling the change they seek (Reread above paragraph). Putting pressure on people to change is the best way to assure failure. Put your energy into refining your own thoughts, actions, and message, and don’t expect anything different from anyone else. Being a quiet example of what you seek is the most powerful motivator for others. Gandhi: My life is my message
Now that we’ve got all that unpleasant talk about opportunities for change right inside of you and under your absolute control, let’s talk about inspiring change in others.
Change one mind at a time. First, don’t try to effect sweeping change among everyone all at once. Seek instead to recruit the first follower (after yourself of course). With so much attention focused on the all-powerful leader, we tend to underestimate the power of the first follower…that one person who joins that lone-ranger, that oddball that thinks and acts so differently. The first follower converts the weird into the novel, and in time after others join in, the novel into the new norm. This is how movements are created from nothing. This short 3-minute narrated video illustrates this point beautifully.
Meet other where they are. People don’t resist change as much as they resist being changed. Seek to influence new behaviors by listening enough to understand why people are doing what they are doing and the way they are doing it. Dig down to understand others’ motivations, perspectives, and finally, their interests. In other words, be really curious about why people do what they do the way they are doing it. This will reveal keys to change because if you can help others meet their interests in the face of the change you propose, there will be far less resistance to adopting these new ways of doing things.
Take baby steps. If the vision you have for change calls for big leaps, break it down to the smallest possible steps and seek support, at least from your first follower, to experiment with one new action. One small step is far easier and acceptable than a total overhaul and will give you quick feedback. Think rapid prototyping.
Are you afraid? Doing things differently can be scary. But if you really want to see things change, you need to risk being the first. Again, taking small doable steps is not insignificant. As the old saying goes: You climb a mountain one step at a time. If fear is standing in your way, refer to last week’s article Face and Embrace All Resistance.
Take Action Now. What small step can you take today to align yourself with the change you seek? Who might be your first follower? Go have a conversation with them today and listen as much as you speak. Share your comments, questions, and insights below and share this article with your fellow change-makers.