What is Your Capacity for Change?

mocha momentsWhenever I happen on a thought or idea, something I feel is important to delve into and further expand I usually Google it to see what others are thinking; if anyone is thinking along the same lines as me and if there are any identifiable trends. I never assume that I KNOW everything nor do I assume that the angle that I choose to look at something from is THE ONLY way to look at it.

In this case I Googled specifically, the title of this week’s column and found the following:

  • Ensuring your organization’s capacity to change
  • Assessing your organization’s capacity to change
  • Measuring your Organization’s Capacity to Change
  • Building Change Capacity in Your Organization
  • Focusing on Organizational Change
  • And other similar headings

Towards the end of the first search page I saw “Learning Your Capacity for Change” but this was a web site about health and changing your body’s composition.

When I first started thinking about the capacity to change, I was thinking on an individual level. However the majority of change initiatives seem targeted at the organization as a whole. Donna Howes, an executive coach and skilled facilitator with the Tekara Organizational Effectiveness Inc. says “The truth is that it takes years to alter how people think, feel and behave; so why should we be surprised that most traditional change initiatives deliver sporadic or temporary results? However, when we stay on the surface and focus on what is easy to control—strategy, structure, skills—we ignore the deeper, more complex human systems that are the real DNA of culture change—our attitudes, beliefs and behaviours.”

The point is that the capacity for change is NOT a measure of our ability to change others. As organizations grow we sometimes have a tendency to get too big for our britches. We forget where and how we started. Sometimes we remember HOW we use to operate in the beginning but we can’t seem to duplicate the “way” we did things then, the culture, in the present.

Marc Eckō in his new book Unlabel offers this interesting example which illuminates my point: “One of the most frequent and annoying questions I hear from Fortune 500 type companies is “How do we connect with the youth? How do we make our brand cool?” The first thing you should know about “youth” is that they would never use the word “youth”. More substantively we need to let go of the idea that teens are somehow so exotic, a different species. Companies try and manufacture or productize a conversation with teens as if they’re this “other thing.” Forty year old brand managers forget that they themselves were once teens.”

Those entrusted with leading others forget that they are STILL human! Maybe I should’ve said “once human” because over time they’ve morphed into these beings who have more hubris than humility, knowing everything there is to know and wondering, often aloud in the corridors “are these people capable or worthy of working for us?” I’ve sat opposite managers behind closed doors and heard them talk about how “shallow” the workforce is and that getting their input would be futile – that implementation should proceed and if “THEY” don’t like it then “THEY” could leave.

Donna Howe’s passion is to create high performance cultures and has come realize that these cultures are made possible when employees bring their whole selves to work. This can be a significant challenge. What sets high performance cultures apart from the rest – rests in the leader’s ability to foster environments where engagement and innovation thrive; where new perspectives and insights help individuals and teams resolve their distinctive immunities to change.

How can you begin to value and encourage employees to bring their head, heart and hands to work in pursuit of a common goal – when you’ve forgotten what brought you to the “party” in the first place?

This weekend I had an opportunity to celebrate the 30th birthday of a sister-friend’s daughter. Everyone toasted her, sharing what was unique about her, what drew them to her and why they loved her. When it was her time to speak I watched her focus on each person around the table saying something, whether she knew them forever or was meeting them for the first time. And then she said something that hit it out of the park for me: “”When you allow yourself to be vulnerable, you create spaces to enact change.”

Your capacity for change is NOT a measure of your ability to change others. You alone control your HUMILITY and this component is an important one in the capacity for change. Just because you “say it’s so” doesn’t make it so. Don’t get so inside your own head and self indulgent that you forget the core of WHO YOU REALLY ARE! Don’t get so caught up in cultivating the aura of invincibility to admit that sometimes you are fearful, feel weak, feel defenseless and many times vulnerable. This prevents you from being kind, considerate, lenient and forgiving not only to yourself but to everyone else around you. Remember: when you allow yourself to be vulnerable, you create spaces to enact change.



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