“Like hugging a cactus…” This is how a colleague described my approach to “change management”. She praised my “subject matter expertise” but explained that I had unfortunately alienated nearly everyone I was talking to while attempting to sell my ideas. Then, she sat me down and taught me “Change Management 101” (…or what I have since come to call “…a blinding flash of the obvious”).

She helped me see that if I criticized everything I saw, the people around me would invest all their energy in defending themselves, their ideas, and their work… rather than hearing; much less embracing, my suggestions for how things could be in the future. 

She suggested I seek to truly understand the history, genuinely acknowledge their work and the sacrifices they had made, and sincerely thank them… Then perhaps, they would allow me to make my case that change was happening at a dizzying pace all around us – and that we too would need to change and adapt, if we wanted to stay competitive. Only then, could I successfully enlist their help in constructively disrupting the status quo and redesigning our future. She suggested I “ask questions”… in addition to “making suggestions”, and she highlighted the power of “pride of authorship” in garnering support. 

Pretty full of myself, and certain that I already knew what was best, I had attributed any lack of success to the fact that they “just didn’t get it”.  Sensing my arrogance, she closed our conversation by observing that effective communicators tailor their messages for their audience… and then she asked me how successful I thought I could be as a leader, if no one was following. Check and Checkmate!

What are you doing to enlist others to create sustainable change? 

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