The Other Side Of Change

Change can be a pesky creature.

One of my favorite sayings, attributed to Yogi Berra, is “the future ain’t what it used to be.” That pretty well sums up the truth about change. In fact, of all the words written about the topic, the one most accurate is likely “inevitable.”

Not too long ago, I was exchanging emails with a thoughtful colleague, and she posed an interesting perspective. She wrote that for whatever reasons, sometimes organizations and/or leaders don’t want situations to change.  She added how that is hard to accept, but once you do, the only thing to do is change yourself.

With all the hoopla about having to change to survive, there are those who do fight it.  In fact, there is much written about all the change which is forced upon people, and how managers must help those around and below them deal with it more effectively. Never-ending change does become fatiguing for anyone.

But think about this. What is the impact on people when they recognize that change in their team, organization or leader must happen, because things today are just not working well, and the manager seems quite content with being a caretaker of the status quo? Most of what I read is about the negative impact of too much change, not about the impact when a desire for change is ignored.

I sense a prevailing assumption that managers up the corporate food chain are more embracing of and better at handling change. This is not necessarily the truth. The impact of change is personal, and affects each individual differently, regardless of level.  And regardless of level, the reasons for wanting to keep things the same are similar.  Change can be uncomfortable, unpredictable and often forces you to demonstrate your incompetence, since you might not be as smooth in the work you are now expected to do, compared to the old work you may have mastered.

There is a story told about Ken Lowe, as he was becoming president and CEO of E. W. Scripps a few years back. He held an employee meeting and alerted everyone that there would be changes. One of the things he said to them was if you don’t like the changes, then leave.  He would understand. And be aware, he was not speaking just to the front line. Many admired Ken for being so upfront.

If you are one who is intent on pursuing better individual and group performance, and find yourself in an organization or with a boss that is stuck, you will have to change. You will have to find different ways of interacting and getting things done, in spite of the inherent complacency. And, on the other end of Ken Lowe’s comment, if you do like and want change and it is not occurring, you may have to leave.

People resist change done to them, but are often inspired by change that can be done by them. Don’t focus on protecting others from too much change. Rather, be open to the possibilities which change can offer, and get others around you involved in collectively creating the kind of new future you most want.

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