Leading Change Series: Owning The Change

Owning The Change.

“People’s behaviour makes sense if you think about it in terms of their goals, needs and motives.” Thomas Mann American (German-born) novelist (1875 – 1955)

Have you ever been to your annual performance review only to listen to your boss waxing lyrically about a change you need to make? You may nod benignly, get it intellectually and agree to give it a ‘red-hot’ try – but in your heart of hearts, you know it is not what you really want to do. At best, you will appear to make the change or mask the old behaviour – and it may last for a while. At worst, you will grudgingly respond, but then quickly revert to the old ways, potentially with a layer of resentment laid on top. What will not happen is for the change to become hard-wired; a part of who you are and who you want to be.

How do you own change?

It is necessary for us to have an intention to change, to decide both what and how we will change and what we want to learn.  Just acting as if we want to learn something and changing because we feel it is expected or think it might be good for us, won’t lead to hard-wired change. At best, we might make soft-wired change or just go through the motions. Even in situations where we are under threat or coercion, a behavioural change will typically only occur as short-term compliance and then we will often revert to the original behaviour, once the pressure is off. So, telling someone to change rarely, if ever, works, unless they buy into the suggestion absolutely or see it as necessary for their survival. Don’t lose sight of what is truly wanted and needed, as it will hinder effective change. What works is when you have a heartfelt and thoughtful intention to change; painting a picture of who you see yourself as being now and who you want to be in the future.

Is it you that wants to change?

Being cajoled to change through social pressure, wise words of wisdom or highly directed advice doesn’t work very often while supportive approaches can be more successful as they allow for you to experience the power of exploring your ideas and coming up with your own solutions about how to act, driving your own agenda with energy and conviction.   Feeling conflicted about the required change – wanting to change, but perhaps not seeing that the pros outweigh the cons or feeling that something good might be sacrificed in the process – or simply vacillating in the decision to change, will be reflected in a lukewarm intention to change. Without a heartfelt commitment, sustained change will be unlikely to occur. A heartfelt commitment to change may involve you finding the triggers to inspire change, to move from ‘wishing’ to ‘wanting’ (a key indicator of the presence of intention). In other words, owning the change. This might be a desire to increase effectiveness at work, potential for promotion or professional development; a desire to become a better person; a personal growth objective or a desire to help others develop. A sense of hope that this can happen must exist; otherwise, change can be a little vacuous. Of course, this impetus is only possible if there is also a good fit between our capability, values, motives, interests, current and future job requirements, and the organisational  environment. Adults need to know why they need to learn something before starting to learn it.

Are you owning the change you wish, need or have been asked to make?