Why’s Change So Blinkin’ Hard? (Part 2)

Hey Readers!

It’s that top off the month time again.

Every month you can look forward to a hand-crafted, expertly curated blogpost and update from me on the 1st of every month except when that falls on Sundays or if I’m off the grid and the satellite internet is sketchy.
I write about life, level five leadership, relationships, hard work and connecting the dots to try and make it all come together. I love learning new things and I love doing hard things well. Particularly when what I’m doing directly benefits the lives of others. My goal with this monthly reach out is to propel us toward excellence in service to others.  
Grab a cup of your favourite hot drink and let’s hang out for a bit. I’m tending a freshly pressed Chilcotin Beartrap coffee assembled and custom ground in the 100 Mile Save-On bulk food aisle. Powerful tasty.

Why’s Change Always So Blinkin’ Hard?   Part 2 
In April I explored some of the dynamics of change and why we as human beings sometimes find it sooo…. difficult.  It messes with us at so many levels – at a personal level, in our relationships, families, places of worship and at our places of work.  

As a deep diver on complex issues, I had to lengthen my snorkel tube and take a few extra deep breaths in order to get to the bottom of this one.

So here’s my run down and summary on Change Management:

  • Change is gonna happen regardless of how we feel about it. Sometimes its welcome. Sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it silently sneaks up you then other times it comes in hot and hard. It can be trivial, or it can be tragic.  Sometimes we have a say. Often we don’t.
  • “Embrace change” is one of those really dumb trigger phrases that has me eyeing the nearest trash can in just in case I have to heave. Change merely for the sake of change doesn’t work. It’s usually espoused by a revved up motivational speaker or someone with an aggressive personal agenda who hasn’t fully thought through the implications. Secretly, they may be masochists who actually enjoy suffering.
  • Changes that are obviously beneficial or move us forward are easy to embrace. But many changes can be downright negative, tough, perhaps impossible to welcome. This list might include loss of a relationship, a loved one, health, job, money, and such. We don’t choose the difficulties or negative changes that spring upon us.
  •  We can always choose how we respond.

Having navigated and survived a lot of changes, there’s three observable  change strategies or approaches we can choose take when faced with inevitable change. The approaches are what I’d call “on the line” thinking, “above the line” thinking and of course ”below the line” thinking.

“On the line thinking” is a status quo, avoidance approach. Basically, sit on the fence, float on the surface and or whatever other passive analogy you can think of and hope to goodness nothing really bad will happen. 
 Here’s a very cool diagram that explains it all. 

The Three Lines 
You’ll see there are areas slightly above and slightly below the line. This is “survivor” zone. If this is our response to a difficult change or problem, we’re sitting on the fence to see what might happen, or we are waiting for someone else to do something. There may be times and reasons for staying in survivor mode that may be quite smart— as long as we stay above the line. Certain high risk scenarios call for  “proceed with caution”. Hence the sayings “pioneers get shot at” and “the second mouse gets the cheese”.
Examples might be when more information is needed or we have to do some research, or to see whether a change is going become a trend, or which way a new boss, government, or relationship is going to go. 
Then there’s the “above the line” thinking approach In this zone, we’re trying to understand the problem or change and figure it out. In this mode we become like a sailing ship captain. We know we can’t control the wind and currents, but we can adjust the sails and chart a course that makes the best use of the elements to move us toward our destination. We effectively become change “navigators”.
Below the line is a dangerous territory of reactive “victim” mode. When we’re in this head space, we’re bitter, helpless, and feeling like others are out to get us or deliberately want to do it to us. In this “blame storming” mode we might point fingers at politicians, bosses or senior management, other departments, customers, competitors, and the like. Decades of research by University of Pennsylvania Psychology professor, Martin Seligman, shows that explaining events in our lives in this state of “learned helplessness” leads to lower performance, poorer health, and higher rates of depression.
What Pulls People Below The Line?
Short answer? Mostly it’s our built in human bias for fear that pulls us down.
In a poll probing exploring irrational anxieties, pollster Allan Gregg asked, “If someone told you something was safe and someone else told you it was unsafe, which one would you believe?” He found that an astounding “68 percent would accept the message of doom and gloom” without questioning who was telling them and what they were talking about. We automatically gravitate to the negative then tend to get stuck there.
Here’s another insightful research piece that explains how we can easily get stuck in victimhood.
See https://youtu.be/7XFLTDQ4JMk

In Summary

  • Changes big and small will keep coming at us and affect us all. Our responses to changes determine whether we’re a Navigator, Survivor or Victim.
  • Understanding that there’s a predictable human emotional toll, turmoil and uncertainty that accompanies change helps us process change.
  • When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by change related fears or anxieties or “numbing out”, It always helps to begin identifying and labeling your emotions. (I have some tools for this- just ask)
  • You gotta know how you feel before you can change it or do something about it.

Getting down to the nitty gritty about what’s happening and your emotions around it helps you better lead yourself. It also helps you gain clarity to create a pathway for personal action. 
What’s the biggest change challenge you’re facing these days? I’ve got one or two of my own going on.

So what do you say. Drop me a line, I’d love to hear about it.

Have a great month of June ! 


Why Is Change So Blinkin’ Hard? (Part 1)

Hi there,

Thanks  again for being a part of our readership tribe.
It’s April 2 and we’re 91 days into this rocking adventure of 2018.  
Already I’ve learned a lot from your responses and feedback on your 3 words for the year and a bunch of other cool stuff you send me. Please keep that feedback coming.
So, why am I here? Top of each month, I enjoy rolling up my sleeves, having a cup of something hot n’ tasty and laying down some ideas, experiences and truth powered concepts to move us forward in being a foremost housing and health organization. It’s my personal mission to inform and inspire us, keep us focused on the realities of the month ahead. I want each of us to be our best and do our best in life, in leadership, and in our work together.

Right now I’m cozied up to steaming mug of Instant Nescafe’ Decaf. You’re saying whaaat..??

Before you go all snobby judge-y on me, let me explain. It’s one of my sometimes favorites. It’s a nostalgia drink for me. It reminds me of my granddad who was a very special guy in my life. He was this sod busting, multi talented, settler, farmer and community leader who had some mad paranormal skills when it came to finding water in the drought driven prairies. Bribe me with a real coffee and I’ll tell you the story. BTW an occasional dose of positive reflective nostalgia is very good for you. Seriously …

Anyway, this month I’d like to talk a bit about the dynamics of “change”. Given where we’re at, I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently. Can’t say I’ve got all the answers right now, but here are several insights from experience that should help give perspective. 

Why Is “Change” So Blinkin’ Hard?

If change gives you gut churn, night sweats, the royal HeeBee GeeBees, you name it, you’re not alone. It’s a very natural discomfort in our lives. Our species tends to like that which has been around for a while. (Like maybe me) That’s the obvious reason for why we don’t like change. 
But it runs deeper than that.

Some of the strongest resistance comes from what people ask for or think they want. Why? “Uninformed Optimism is always followed by “Informed Pessimism” and us humans will almost always choose the comfort of familiarity over the anxiety that comes with the unknown.

All that excess uncertainty. 

If change feels like walking off a cliff blindfolded, then people will reject it. People will often prefer to remain mired in “stuck-ness” than to head toward an unknown even if it makes perfect logical sense. Here’s where that saying comes in, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.”

Surprise, surprise!
Decisions or circumstances that are harshly imposed on us with no time to get used to the idea or prepare for the consequences, are strongly resisted and resented. That’s probably why I hate surprise parties. It’s always easier to say No than to say Yes. As leaders, it’s always preferable to craft changes incrementally rather than springing them all at once. It’s better to plant seeds — that is, to sprinkle hints of what might be coming and seek collaboration and input.

Departure from the past

People who identify strongly with the last version, or the one that’s being superseded are likely to be super defensive about it. When change involves a big shift of strategic direction, the people responsible for the previous direction dread the perception that they may have gotten things wrong. As leaders we can help people maintain dignity by celebrating those elements of the past that are worth honouring and making it clear that the world has changed. That makes it easier to let go and move on.

Everything’s so different. 
Well, yeah!  Change is always about something different, but how different? We are creatures of habit. Routines become automatic, but change jolts us into consciousness, sometimes in uncomfortable ways. Too many changes coming too fast can overload someone’s space for change and make things very disorienting and confusing.

It’s coming at us faster.
If things seem to be happening faster these days, it’s because well,…uh, they are.
Brainiac inventor, author and futurist with a pretty strong prediction track record, Ray Kurzweil coined the phrase “law of accelerating returns”.

In 2001 Kurzweil wrote about the fact that every decade our overall rate of progress in technology was doubling, “We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century—it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).” 

The Internet and the mass availability of decentralized instant knowledge has spawned a whole new world of work and it has resulted in a whole new genre of businesses like Uber, Air BnB, and Amazon and millions of others.

BTW. Some of Ray Kurzweil’s predictions from the last 25 years may have seemed a stretch at the time—but many were right. 

See https://singularityhub.com/2015/01/26/ray-kurzweils-mind-boggling-predictions-for-the-next-25-years/

We’re only 18 years into the 21st century and the progress has been pretty astounding—the global adoption of the Internet, smartphones, ever-more agile robots, Artificial Intelligence that actually learns.          
We sequenced the first human genome in 2004 at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. Now, machines can sequence 18,000 annually for $1,000 a genome.

These are just a few examples of the law of accelerating returns driving progress forward.

The human element
Now here’s the part many leaders, experts and management gurus seem to ignore.
Because absorbing change requires physical, emotional, and intellectual energy, some very weird stuff happens when we run out of personal capacity to deal with it. On any given day you and I can only absorb so much change before our capacity hits overload and we hit the wall of zombie like dysfunction or “future shock”.

Back to the law of accelerated returns , when the conditions are right  the returns on investment can be exponential.

In agriculture this is known as “bumper crop”. In finance, it’s compounded interest. In business activity, it’s called “scaling up”.
When it comes to “change”, this isn’t new territory. We’ve been here before .

Because the future is approaching much faster than we may realize, it’s critical to keep thinking exponentially about where we’re headed and how we’ll get there.The world we knew starting out is vastly different to the world we face today.

The new wrinkle for us as leaders in this increasingly uncertain world is how dow we build “resilience” and “change capacity” into ourselves and the communities we lead? 

As leader we need to understand our times so that we know what to do.

Got any changes that are jamming you up ? 
Give me a shout, hit me up.
Love to help.