The Idea Dude


Monday, January 16, 2006

It's all about change...

Today's topic is about change...John Maxwell talks about it in his latest newsletter and Fast Company has an article on why it's so damn hard to change (see Change or Die). I used to think as a kid, managers were the people who made a lot of money by telling the rest of the people what to do. Many people still think that and in many industries maybe it is. In the software industry, I believe the most important role of managers is to help people cope with change.

Change is an interesting concept, it's a disruption to a known universe, it brings in elements of risk and uncertainty. Many of us would prefer to stay in the frying pan in fear that we may jump into the fire. We prefer order and stability because chaos requires energy on our part to harness and tame it. That's probably why we fear radicals because they test our thinking and we really fear that if there is truth in their words it will require us to change either our lives or even worse our perceptions and attitudes.

As leaders, we must help our team prepare for change. Firstly, to expect change. It is inevitable, we should expect it and feel comfortable dealing with it. Secondly, to understand the need for change. Like the seasons, change is necessary for rebirth and recovery. Thirdly, to deal with change one step at a time. Managing change is really about managing fear and making sure our teams have the courage to be part of the change as willing participants rather than being dragged along like leaves in the wind. We have to show change not as something we are doing to remove a pain point or an impediment because that will never be lasting, and people will revert back to old ways. We have to show change as a path to greater fulfillment and joy because those emotions are what people are willing to put energy and effort to maintain and enhance.

One of the most important lessons I learnt is that of patience during change. I can make bold and inspiring speeches. I can create high energy environments. I can educate my team. But I cannot change my team. They must do that themselves. It is a hard sobering lesson...I can guide, coach, mentor, inspire, encourage, discipline and love my family and my team. But I cannot change them. That is something that must come from within and it must come willingly and with joy. If you don't believe me...try teaching someone music. You can make them learn all the theory, musical notes and force them to practice but you will never create a great musician. That must come from within each is their choice not yours.

Another analogy is growing plants...we plant the seeds, provide water, pull out the weeds and hope that the plant will flourish. Unless we fail to do our part, we usually don't beat ourselves up over a plant that whithers away despite our nurturing. But we do take it personally...intensely so...if our team members (and children for that matter) don't turn out the way we expect them to. Frankly, I think that is an ego thing. We feel we can play god as the manager or parent. But we really are just the gardeners...

Love life!


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