Through life experience in various settings – whether in business, at church, or at home – I have observed that the most difficult challenge we face is change.  Whether it involves changing attitudes or behaviors, most of us don’t like it.  As shown below in Geoffrey Moore’s diagram on change management, over 80% of people fear, dislike or, given a choice, would rather not engage in the process of change.  Less than 20% appear to love change or at least be willing to give it a try. 

The fear or the dislike of change, or the unwillingness to engage in the process of change seems to fall into one of (or perhaps a combination of) the following three categories:

  1. I don’t get it
  2. I don’t have the skills
  3. I don’t want to

I don’t get it. For those who are able to see the need for strategic planning, business development, eating healthy, financial discipline, goal setting, people development, or succession planning (to name just a few of the difficult challenges out there), it’s hard to believe that others simply don’t “get it.”  But that is the place to begin, with the business case, the logical, often financial-driven analysis to explain “why” the change is necessary, what will likely happen if we stay on the current course, the costs and benefits, etc.  Often this explanation process must appeal to shared values such as our genuine concern for the well being of our clients and people.  In any event, as you lead through change, don’t skip this important step and assume that all of the people on your team “get it.”

I don’t have the skills. Once the majority of the team understands the reasons driving the need for change, the next thing you’ll hear is something like, “Now I get why people development is important to the long-term sustainability of our company, but I simply don’t know what to do or how to do it.  I need some skills.”  Before turning to skill development, of first importance is for everyone on the team to understand their strengths and weaknesses.  While improving and getting better in our areas of weakness is possible and in some cases necessary, it is better to deploy people in roles that drive them to their “highest and best use” or most utilize their God-given strengths and talents.  Start by assigning roles which play off people’s strengths, but also include appropriate skill training.  I say “appropriate” because some skills can’t be significantly improved by reading the owner’s manual; you have to actually fly the plane!  Identify someone on the team who has skills you’d like to get better at, whether business development, client service, or people development.  Ask if you can come along to observe them in action, then ask for a small role in the next meeting, and finally ask to “fly” while they observe and support you as co-pilot. Ask for training; insist on it!  As team leaders, don’t hold back in providing it.  It is imperative.

I don’t want to. As I continue to study and think and write about adopting the change required to grow and learn and get better in life, I keep getting “stuck” on this last point.  Attitude and education are important. But even if I totally “get” why change is good and necessary, and even if I obtain “new skills” needed to implement the change, none of that matters if I simply don’t want to do it.

In an earlier blog addressing the “I don’t want to” factor, I’ve pointed to the importance of recognizing that a better life requires that a cost be paid:  we must be willing to “die” to our old ways.  This is not easy or pain-free, but necessary.  I’ve also pointed to the importance of being vulnerable, to admitting your fears around change and asking for help from others.   

Today I encourage you to recognize that your current way of living and working is deeply engrained and that change will take time.  In his book Mojo aimed at helping successful leaders achieve positive, lasting change in behavior, executive coach Marshall Goldsmith observes that,

"After living with their dysfunctional behavior for so many years (a sunk cost if ever there was one), people become invested in defending their dysfunctions rather than changing them."

Change is a journey that starts with one step.  Change is hard and is filled with adversity.  It’s not a matter of “if” you will fail and fall short, but when.  Change requires all the attention and energy you can muster. So don’t put your energy into deepening your resistance, into explaining why the new way won’t work, or into defending your old behaviors.  Instead, put your energy into getting started and into starting over.

Change starts with understanding “why” and improving necessary skills. But change is not achieved with study and thought and blog writing; it is achieved only with action.

We will continue to help our clients to learn and grow and succeed at life by addressing the hard but rewarding work of change. If you have any ideas or experiences around getting “unstuck” and getting started in the change process, please post them so others can benefit.

Best regards,