“There is nothing permanent except change.” -Heraclitus
A guy stops by the fortune-teller at the local country fair and asked for a glimpse into his future. The fortune-teller looked him over and told him, “You’ll be poor, unhappy, and miserable until you’re fifty.”
“Then what?” asked the man.
“By that time,” the fortune-teller said, “You’ll be used to it.”
(No More Dreaded Mondays, Dan Miller)
When it comes to dealing with change in our own lives or in our organization, we can’t leave it to chance, the fortune-teller or even a Doctor, as this next story alludes to.
The Story of the Doctor and the Thief
A man goes to the doctor and says, “Doctor, I’ve become a compulsive thief.”
The doctor then prescribes him a course of tablets and says, “If you’re not cured in a couple of weeks would you get me a big screen television?”
This simple story illustrates two points about change: change can be difficult and not everyone around us believes that we can change.
There is no other month that signifies change like January. It is the month when individuals make personal promises for change. Research shows that many of these promises become distant thoughts before the month of March rolls in.
Do you have what it takes to overcome the changes that involve yourself, your family, and/or your organization? Overcoming change in our lives and organizations must be intentional and strategic if it is going to last.
There are two laws that are synonymous with this type of change: those are the Law of Correspondence and the Law of Attraction. The Law of Correspondence says that our outer world will eventually become a reflection of our inner world. What is going on in us will eventually shape ourselves, our relationships with family, and our organizations, good or bad. The Law of Attraction says that we will inevitably attract into our life the people, ideas, circumstance, and resources necessary for us to achieve our dominant thoughts and desires. These two laws urge us to see that the results that we achieved in 2017, good or bad, were directly related to our internal reflections and the people and circumstances that we attracted to us. For 2018, we have the power to change our thoughts and the people, ideas, circumstances, and resources that we attract to us and to our organizations.
I recently had a conversation with an entrepreneur friend who runs his own plumbing business, who was in my home fixing a leak. He shared with me a recent discussion he had had with another entrepreneur plumber who was asking how he had such a successful year growing his business by 55% in 2017. His response was, “I stopped listening to everyone who told me that I could not do it and made strategic changes in my business.”
If we want 2018 to be a better year for our personal health, family relationships, a growing business, and even higher test scores for students, we are going to have to be very deliberate about the changes needed to produce and sustain these desires.
We have to start by committing not to listen to those who tell us that it cannot be done. John Kotter, in his book on Leading Change (1996) offers several critical steps for sustaining change.
1st- Establish a sense of urgency (identify current and potential crisis & major opportunity) -Use qualitative or quantitative data to drive this urgency. When I was a school principal, I did this by emphasizing to my staff that a lack of a quality education for our students meant a lifetime of poverty and even in some cases death. In your case, it may be health reports, broken relationships, decreased profits, or a changing economy.
2nd- Create a guiding coalition– It is critical to galvanize trusted individuals or a small group to address the sense of urgency that has been established. In school, we brought together individuals who served in different capacities of the school to begin to address the concerns and what we were going to do about it. Who needs to be on your team for a change?
3rd- Develop a vision (vision to help direct the change and strategies for achieving them)- As we began to address the student issues in our building, I asked two questions of all staff and took notes: a) Where do you want to see our school in the next 3-5 years? and b) What are you willing to commit to doing to help us get there? How will you develop your vision for yourself and/or your organization?
4th- Communicate the change vision– The change vision in our school was communicated in every staff meeting verbally and was posted in every restroom and commons area in the building. How will you communicate the vision that you have for yourself and your organization?
5th- Empowering broad-based action (getting rid of obstacles, changing systems that undermine the change, encouraging risk-taking)- One of our goals was to increase the number of students we had participating in our Gifted and Talented Program. In the past, schools in our district sent letters home asking parents to sign the form and send it back if they wanted their child to be tested for the Gifted and Talented Program. Many parents never received the information, some forgot to send it back, and a small number were not interested in getting their children tested. Our school removed the obstacles by sending forms home stating that their child would be taking a test for Gifted and Talented and if they were not interested in having their child take the test to send the form back. Needless to say, in one year we more than doubled the number of students participating in the Gifted and Talented Program.
The Ritz-Carson Hotels allows their employees to remove obstacles facing guest by providing each employee with a $2000 stipend to fix any customer problem.
6th- Celebrate the short term wins (rewarding small steps, and people)- Our school had classroom and school-wide celebrations each month for the achievement of student goals. I also celebrated my staff by providing breakfast and staff bowling in place of a staff meeting, on occasions.
7th- Share your successes and encourage others to make changes– Be willing to share your successes so that others can learn from your gains and losses and emulate your individual or organizational success in their endeavors.
Overcoming and dealing with change in 2018 can be achieved on an individual level or organizational level when we are deliberate and intentional. I look forward to hearing about the change that you will be leading this year.
Best of luck!