Change is a dirty word. I’ve been pondering this all weekend, spending a very hot, humid weekend walking around my neighborhood trying to determine why a client once said “I don’t want change, I want progress. Don’t talk to me about change.” Well, progress generally comes at a price because it requires changed behavior.
Finally, I had the moment. You know, the moment when you snatch the fly out of the Master’s hand and he calls you “Grasshopper.” Walking outdoors through God’s steam room I finally found my answer:
When we like a new direction, we call it an exciting opportunity. When we don’t like a new direction, we call it change.
Think about this scenario:
Sally has been working for a manager for two years who is ineffective at his best, emotionally abusive at his worst. He won’t communicate with his staff, he won’t delegate, and he takes credit for all of his team’s ideas. Sally has just found out that this nightmare of a manager is leaving, and a new woman she’s known for years is taking over. She’s known to be a great coach, leader, and manager. She enrolls her team and works to move them upward.
Would this be considered an exciting new direction, or would this be considered a “change”? Exactly – this is an exciting new direction. No training required, no seminars on communication — just improvement. Now reverse the situation:
Sally has been working for a manager for two years that is a great coach, leader, and manager. She enrolls her team and works to move them upwards. Sally has just found out that her manager is leaving, and a new gentleman is coming in that is known for being ineffective at his best, emotionally abusive at his worst. He doesn’t communicate with his staff, he doesn’t delegate, and he takes credit for all of his team’s ideas.
Would this be considered an exciting new direction, or would this be considered a “change”? You’ve got it – this is change. Sally will resist because she doesn’t want it to happen.
We’ve learned to define change as the thing we don’t want to do. It’s all in the semantics. Well, here’s the deal, sometimes we have to change even when we don’t want to. So, the next time you’re facing change, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Am I resisting this because I don’t want to do it, or because it’s truly the wrong thing to do? If you believe it’s morally or ethically wrong, then stand your ground (if you’re ready to move to another job). But if you just don’t want to do it, then move to #2.
2. Determine the pro’s and con’s of the change. Are you exaggerating to justify your own resistance? Will it really be as bad as you are anticipating, or could there be some positives?
3. Is not changing an option? Are you in control of what will and will not happen? If the change is not morally or ethically wrong, and you’re not in control of it, then accept the fact that you need to do it and stop putting energy into resistance. Let go, and move forward. It will be a lot less painful.
Change doesn’t have to be a dirty word – it’s life’s one constant. Sometimes I think we all know that life is a delicate precipice, and we are tipping over the edge from the day we are born. Therefore, we try to hold onto a branch and remain very still, hoping that the lack of movement will ensure our on-going existence.
Face it folks, we don’t get to stay, but we do get to make a difference while we’re here. So get moving, and realize that our fear is what most often makes change a dirty word.