Change Management, it’s all talk

Gemma Reucroft’s recent blog on change made me remember where my own beliefs about change came from, and how they have informed my work over many years.
I work with a range of tools, techniques and disciplines but – underlying all of that are values, beliefs and a philosophy that I hold strongly to. So, my belief system and values inform my methodology more than any tool, instrument, or theory.  However, the Human Synergistics instruments go deep, are grounded in research and I use them when I am looking at culture, leadership impact and for development and I do from time to time teach others about these tools and have a long time connection for the org (I worked for them once!).

The LSI (LIfe Styles Inventory) is their foundation tool and my learning about personal change is drawn from that toolkit. No-one can change people, we are us, ourselves, our unique self. We can only change if we choose to, if we want to, if we deepen our knowledge of ourselves.

The LSI invites the learner to think about change and to think about loss and gain in relation to change both personally and professionally. It was the first time I hadn’t been told that change was “good” “part of life”.   I always felt slightly guilty if I resisted change, but felt I couldn’t say so, as I wanted to fit in.   Through reflection, I was able to recognise that if I wanted to achieve more, gain credibility, I would have to leave behind some protective behaviours (“do you like me, do you like me, please like me”). If I stopped checking whether people liked me, then I how would I know?  There are always kind souls who will meet our approval seeking behaviours, so asking others was a way to get some validation, but of course it got in the way of making decisions, and interrupted my focus on what I thought was right. The change I had to make was to learn to trust myself, respect my own judgement and not search for some external validation.

Letting go of self defeating behaviours is hard, and takes time.
Whenever we embark upon something new – and it may be something shiny and exciting that we’ve chosen for ourselves like a new job, a MOOC, a lone holiday, a new horizon of some sort, we have a nervous anticipation – we are probably leaving some other part of our life behind.  Something we enjoyed at one time.

Sometimes we really think about this very hard indeed.

In the workplace, change is often imposed on us; companies come together in this age of contraction and expansion and decisions are made in the boardroom often with good intentions to involve, engage, empower and inspire the people. But once the decisions are made, then somehow the change process becomes a project implementation plan of deadlines and deliverables and the rest of us are trying hard to keep up, but wondering what it means to me, why has that changed, why didn’t they ask me. And it gets hard, and people from all perspectives get frustrated, and then it all gets difficult.

People need to explore change, kick it around, make meaning and internalise it. It take some of us longer to do this than others. And that’s OK with me. We all spark to a different ignition; the joy of working with people is working with them and seeing them/me/we finding out what will ignite another person. In my experience, the most simple and accessible change framework is Bridges transition – Bridges points out that most of our energy in change goes into explaining the rational, when most of our energy needs to be directed into the emotional.
As a wise colleague once concluded (thank you Jane ) change management – it’s all talk.