I recently received a request from someone interested in exploring a career in change management. My response to that can be found in a blog post here.
The request was helpful, hopefully for him, but also for me. It put me in a reflective state of mind, pulling me into a personal meditation on why I do what I do.
I came to appreciate that my ability to quickly drop an unsuccessful strategy in favour of an improved one was the key to my success. And of course I also believe that this adaptive set of skills is critical in just about any circumstance where building relationships to achieve a common goal is your desired result.
It's the type of leadership where we must first look into ourselves rather than outside.
I often say that ‘leadership is the art of possibility in the face of reality’. It’s about the leadership of one’s self not others. A need to lead in a way where the outcome is to become more than you are currently.
We do this by getting into the world of others, their pain, motivations and stubbornness. And we do this because at the end of the day it all boils down to one thing.
But to understand the internal world of others you first need to go inside yourself and look for that fear inside you. Your fears are an important determiner of how you define others. And it can also blind you to the needs of others, their influences and how you relate to them (or not) as you interpret their motives as either good or bad.
We develop coping strategies to protect ourselves from the fear of losing things or dealing with uncomfortable situations. Regardless, your past drives your behaviour and interpretation.
These coping strategies shut down opportunities for growth, and strangely, mastery over those same situations paradoxically shuts down opportunities for growth too.
Mastery is a two edged sword. When making decisions about what situations to expose yourself to and when to run away, it’s human nature to seek comfort in the areas where you have shown mastery in the past.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, that need to find a “safe route” eliminates opportunities build new skills and promote self-growth.
I’m not suggesting there is a need to dig deep into the roots of your fears. Just be mindful of where they are leading you. Be aware what is influencing your perceptions and decisions. Take a realistic look at how relevant past fears are today’s situations. Choose to think different, ‘be’ different. Don’t be defined by the past but rather, by your future.
So how does this connect with change management? Simply this: you cannot manage change, only your response to it. Apply this ‘choosing principle’ to organisational choice - change yourself to be the agent of change and others will follow or not. If they don’t, you simply choose again.
Decisions are the source of pain, choice, the source of freedom.