The Certainty of Change

“The only thing that is constant is change” Heraclitus

Last week I spoke to a group of attorneys on the subject on organizational change. My presentation focused on a) change is the only constant in life and business; b) understanding the change cycle in organizations; c) as legal counsel, becoming a change catalyst will increase their effectiveness with clients.

Change is the only constant in life and business.

When the subject of change is raised in the midst of an organizational restructuring or downsizing, most people have a negative visceral reaction to the word, especially when used by senior management. Why the negative reaction? Typically the change being described sounds like people are going to be losing something…possibly their jobs. As Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linskey in their book The Practice of Adaptive Leadership say, “ People don’t resist change; they resist the loss.”

Understanding the change-cycle  in organizations.

I’d go further and say that people resist change when it is unclear what and if they  might be losing something. The vague and nebulous messages around change drives people nuts! One thing good leaders do in times of change is describe in detail what the change looks like, and how it will impact employees. Leaders who effectively talk about change do so with courage and transparency.  This type of courage and transparency was demonstrated by a former colleague when presenting his plans for a corporate wide organizational transformation. Myself and many listening were stunned by the integrity, candor and humility of the presenter. Those qualities must be evident in a leader to successfully lead and manage an organizational change initiative.

Becoming a change catalyst will increase your effectiveness with your clients

Referencing the work of Daniel Goleman in his book Working with Emotional Intelligence, I introduced the idea of becoming a trusted advisor in the organization requires one to act as a change catalyst. I also described the role of culture in organizational change efforts. Lou Gerstner is quoted to have said during IBM’s massive organizational change, “The thing I have learned at IBM is that culture is everything.” Change catalysts must have a deeper understanding of the “way things are done around here” and the reasons for the way people think and behave. Change catalysts model the following:

  • recognize the need for change and remove barriers
  • challenge the status quo to acknowledge the need for change
  • champion the change and enlist others in the pursuit
  • model the change expected of others
  • blend of business savvy, intuition, and creativity
  • willing to be different than others
  • anticipate, identify, and address people problems
  • shows courage and emotional fortitude

My main message for the group was for them to begin to change their view of others and of themselves. Again, when we hear about changes, we often move into a state of passivity, adopting a “wait-and-see” attitude, or flatly oppose the change. It is far better to take the opportunity to embrace, understand, and lead the change. As Mahatma Ghandi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

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