Change brings pain.
How much pain depends on the magnitude of the change and how close you are to it when it happens. First, people look at the change from afar hoping it won’t affect them. Then they quickly begin preparing for it move to avoid for it a long as possible. But just like the change of the seasons, eventually change affects everyone. It’s unavoidable.
I live in San Diego and went to Boston on March 7 to lead a session for the Alliance for Oral Health Across Borders. All we heard when we arrived in Boston was that they are just shy of the all-time annual record for snow fall. Surprisingly after being blasted all winter, everyone was excited to get more snow just so they could break the record. The snow piles stood taller than us with mounds of it, and ice cascaded from the tops of building all around us. Cars on the streets when the snow plow came by to open the roads were boxed in.
The owner of this car would now have to dig it out or wait until the spring thaw before it would be of any use again.
Change brings pain. This was made abundantly clear on March 9 when, according to Weather.com:
“Temperatures in Boston hit 50 for the first time in months, but the start of the big thaw wasn’t all good news. A huge chunk of ice melted, separated off a building and became a dangerous projectile on Friend Street. No one was hurt, but the 75-pound chunk of ice damaged four parked cars, New England Cable News reports. Several photos posted to Twitter show smashed windshields and even body damage to the vehicles. Check out the photos of those cars.”
This was a definite unintended consequence of the changing of the seasons.
So how does this relate to you as a learning leader? When you’re implementing change in your organization, it brings about intended and unintended pain. This causes people to resist the shift even more. Just like the cars affected by the snow in Boston, there are ways to mitigate it by anticipating the consequences and then informing people.
The owner of the car with snow piled on it could have moved it before the plow arrived. The owners of the cars parked in the lot where the 75 pounds of snow and ice fell could have avoided the damages with a warning from the parking lot owner. They themselves could have looked up to see the pile of snow and ice waiting to drop and made their own decisions not to park there.
Seasons change — that is unavoidable — and it forces us to change with it. We may not like it but we go with it. While you can’t force change to happen, I have seen many times where leaders have given up because of the pain right before it would have worked. So this scenario teaches us that we need to stick with it, get through the pain and come out on the other side to ensure change happens.
In his article “Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail,” change expert John Kotter says, “Change may be the ultimate test of a leader — no business survives over the long term if it can’t reinvent itself. But, human nature being what it is, fundamental change is often resisted mightily by the people it most affects: those in the trenches of the business.” I am sure the people owning those cars realize this now.
As a learning leader, one of your primary roles should be leading and supporting change. It’s one the best ways I know for building credibility and helping your organization to continue to be competitive.
If you are ready to develop your competencies as a change leader, start by reading Kotter’sarticle. Then, seek out opportunities to participate in change management training and to lead change initiatives. It’s the one competency that I believe will help you more than anything else you could possibly do to grow your career.
CLO stands for chief learning officer, and it also stands for change leader of organizations. Are you a true CLO? If not, you should spend the time to develop the mindset, skill set and tool set to become one.
Thanks to everyone who reads this blog. Continue to give your feedback and ideas. This is your blog for “Your Career.” Oh and don’t worry about the record not being broken in Boston, it was announced on March 15—“Boston breaks all time seasonal snow record.”