Change is one of those we love and hate. We love to cause it for other people, but hate it being done to us.
At the present time, it seems as though we are immersed in it, and that it has very many faces. It however is not the enemy, it just is and it is how we engage with it that creates the challenge.
As Robert Gallagher points out, “change is inevitable – except from a vending machine”.
So how can we engage with it, and turn it from something we hate, to something we can at least live productively with, and maybe even come to love?
Firstly, understand that it is not something external to us, it is a dance we are in. The reason that most “change initiatives” fail is because we think somebody else will take care of it. The reality is that we cannot separate ourselves from it, and that we have to find a way to “dance” with it.
If we can do that, we can engage with it, guide it, and take the lead. Yes, we may have to learn to do things differently, and learn new skills, but we can choose to lead, not follow.
Secondly, people do not need protecting from it. It is easy to make assumptions, particularly in organisations dealing with the vulnerable like Charities, that we can somehow protect people. Not only can’t we, we do them a disservice by trying. We can however do something far more powerful – we can create a “circle of safety” for them. A “space” where they can say how change is affecting them, listen to them, and support them as they learn to dance with it.
The most important skill we can develop is to empathise with them, Empathy is not a “soft’ skill, and it is not sympathy – it is about understanding – about “walking a mile in their shoes” and helping them see a way through.
Thirdly, we can recognise that turning change to growth happens in small groups. Within all organisations, there are people who share worldviews, attitudes and experiences, and who naturally form “tribes” to support each other.
Research shows that we cannot manage more than around 150 meaningful relationships – those who we know well enough to be able to strike up a meaningful conversation with based on shared experience, and that great change happens when we work with them to tackle it.
We all have a natural fear of change, and life is easier when we trust the people stood next to us.
Lastly, recognise that we are all leaders now. We all have the opportunity, and responsibility, to lead those who may be behind us in getting to grips with the changes we face together.
Leadership is a privilege, but as Simon Sinek points out in “Leaders eat last”, it carries a price. To lead, we have to put those we lead before ourselves, and that is not always easy.
Being afraid of change is natural. It is not weakness – but it is a choice.
The change we are in the midst of right now, from Technology to Trump, may seem like a peak, something that will go away, or go “back to normal”.
It almost certainly won’t.
If we stand still, it will seem to accelerate, and get away from us. If on the other hand, we embrace it, and pick the right partners, we can learn to dance with it.