Change, though, is a word that I now choose to avoid as much as possible. Because for me, I'd prefer to give a different sense to this very natural process of life. I now consciously refer to change as an opportunity to explore more of what already is. An invitation to push through imagined limitations. To seek new grounds. And to find the courage to embrace and accept all of it in its entirety.
Change, you see, is a word that frightens so many people. No matter which way you look at it, the word implies failure, because it means that something is wrong, was wrong or is going to be wrong. Think about it. Why else would anyone be asking us to change anything? Because something isn't right! Is it any wonder, therefore, that people shy away when invited to make a change?
How many times have I heard board directors boast about "a new change initiative! Something that's really going to make things different around here!" And then they wonder why people back away from it at the first opportunity, instead of jumping up and embracing it with both hands - eager to make the changes happen for themselves? People don't like change - and for those of us who have been through any period of personal change, we know that it's painful. Yes, even though we might feel stronger or wiser as a result, the process can be quite simply horrid. So when bosses tell their teams that things are going to change, there's the potential of a double-whammy negative response from the very people they'd hoped to inspire! There's the sense that, by definition, they're currently doing something wrong; and for those who've experienced any personal change, there's the absolute certainty that this is going to hurt!
Imagine the different response leaders could probably expect from their teams if, when they have ideas about how things can improve, rather than announcing these ideas as "a new initiative" or"new ideas for change" they instead chose to refer to them as "exploring the power we already have within us as a team!" The chance to "shine" and to "do more of the good stuff" to "nurture what we're already doing well, find any cobwebs that might be clogging the system, and define how we're going to move forward from here?"
In my experience, people respond much better to praise and encouragement than to any expectation of change. I can be a funny creature when it comes to language, as those who know me will testify. For it's the everyday words people use that give me an insight as to where they're at in terms of living the life they say they choose - and the progress that can be made just through shifting a couple of specific words can be astounding!
So I know the effect that well thought through phrases can have in the workplace. I've seen a coaching client finally find the strength to voice his opinions about a project that was going disastrously wrong - simply by changing his every-day language from third person to first person. He had been continually referring to himself as "you" and, therefore, giving away his power. By helping this man to shift his language, he re-connected with his self-belief, and found the courage to speak out. As a result of his actions, the company reversed some bad business decisions and brought the project back on track. The result? Massive cost savings, and respect and recognition for my client.
People don't like change. People do like growth and encouragement. They do like the idea they can do something to become more or do more with their life. And, in the main, people also like watching other people develop - hence the clever concept behind X-Factor and so many other real-life TV competitions. How many times have we heard comments on these programmes: "he's really developed" "she's come out of herself over the past two weeks" "I was feeling frightened at first, now I'm much more confident!" These are all observations that prove a change has happened - where people have achieved and become more than they might previously have thought possible. And these people go through this process in front of millions of viewers. Viewers who, on the whole, feel equally inspired, connected and delighted by the progress of a contestant who was, after all, just an ordinary person before the show. So... change can happen in front of our eyes, and we can feel lifted by the feel-good factor during the process.
If the original headline invitation, however, was to apply for a programme that required you to make changes, would they have attracted the huge numbers of applicants needed for the show? I think not. So, please let's stop parading 'change' as a good thing, or something to which we should aspire. Change is merely a vehicle - it's certainly not a destination, and it's far from being a motivator! It's all about re-adjusting perspectives, that's all...
Speaking of which, I heard a wonderful story the other day. It concerns a little girl in an art class at school. The teacher came over to her and asked her what she was painting. "I'm painting a picture of God!" replied the child. The teacher looked surprised "But nobody knows what God looks like!"she exclaimed. The little girl carried on painting, and simply smiled "Well, they will once I've finished my picture!"