I have worked with many change experts over the years, collaborating to bring effective communication practices to their differing methodologies.
I especially remember a man who visited our organization with his entourage every few months. He projected authority and conducted direct conversations with our executive team about “alignment” and “accountability.”
Early on, I read his introductory book on change and found some value in it. In particular, my wife and I were having a minor disagreement about how to handle a situation with our daughter. I used an idea from the book to help me approach it with her more constructively, and I decided to share the experience.
The prominent change expert returned, and I opened our conversation with, “I’m enjoying your book. In fact, there was one point in particular that my wife and I tried, and…”
I never finished the sentence.
The man looked at me and said drily, “You tried it on your wife? How did that work for you?” The entourage laughed, and he went on his way.
Change is personal. We laugh at it from a distance, but we get serious when it comes for us. In short, everyone is good at somebody else’s change.
Change is hard. It is complicated. It is messy. Successful approaches to it must balance trust and truth, the pace of acceptance with urgency, reason with emotion, practical needs with personal, and more. These qualities apply whether we are at work or at home.
Experts in change management help people move through changes, sometimes thousands of people at a time. We must account for that volume and the unique factors that come into play when change comes to large groups, but we must also preserve our sense of real individuals, the people who we otherwise lose in abstractions such as “employee base,” “workforce,” or worse, “headcount.”
When you remember the personal dimensions of successful change, you open yourself to deeper insights that get at how our brains really work. Principles such as:
- modifying behavior with positive (not critical) messages
- not confusing a person’s natural initial resistance with bad intentions
- listening and building dialogue instead of one-way communications
- using stories for emotional resonance and easy recall
These guidelines are powerful in work and personal settings. They can improve the quality of your life – the way you work through relationship issues, the way you help others through rough patches, the way you teach and learn, and the way you build communities around you that are strong and supportive.
I am not saying that you can perfectly relate the lessons found in business books to your home life, but there is more overlap than some people allow for. As for me, I do believe that my focus on change communications has helped to make me a better person. Skeptics, I refer you to my wife.
Comments are welcome, and if you would like to see me write on specific topics in change management, please share them below as well.