Over Memorial Day weekend I experienced a powerful leadership lesson. The theme of my ‘developmental challenge' was change. And you know the saying, There are only three things in life that are certain – death, taxes… and change.
Research shows that one's preference for - and response to - change runs along a continuum. For example, the Change Style Indicator (CSI) measures an individual's natural style in approaching change and dealing with situations involving change. “Conservers” prefer change that is gradual and incremental. They represent the protectors of tradition. “Pragmatists” accept change if it's functional and practical. “Originators” have faster and more radical approaches to change. They like things to be ‘new' or ‘different' or else they become bored and restless.
Well I'm not so big on change. In fact, I am a strong conserver. Structured and scheduled, I like routine. I seek it. I create it. Been that way my whole life. When things are in order, I feel in control. If you're honest, I suspect many of you will relate to this. You know the discomfort that change brings. It disrupts predictability. Things seem unstable. There's no doubt that a good part of my desire for certainty comes from my New England upbringing. The conservatism and tradition of New England had a big impact on my preference for consistency and the way I now live my life.
Now sometimes change is thrust upon us - it happens TO us, and we make accommodations. For example, no one chooses to have a heart attack but immediately nutritional habits improve, along with exercise. People even quit smoking. When misfortunes or tragedies happen, we are forced to change. There is no choice and we do our best to adjust, even if we do it with resistance.
But I'm talking about when we CHOOSE to change. Deliberately and intentionally choosing to disorder your life. For at least 75% of the population there needs to be a good reason to tip over the proverbial apple cart. Although all change does not bring improvement, all improvement requires change. Although it's hard work, effective leaders recognize the importance of self-improvement.
My change lesson took place when I moved my office last week into The McKenzie Company's corporate office. I have been a member of the McKenzie Team for about a year now, but I was working from a different physical location until Memorial Day weekend. Sally also relocated the company. We are now under the same roof of a new suite built out especially for our needs. All of us at McKenzie are excited about the opportunities this office will give us. Certainly it will enable us to serve all of you, our clients, much better.
The easy part of this decision was wanting to work more closely with Sally. I admire her leadership immensely. Sally truly does everything effective leaders do. After just a few days of watching her staff more closely – my McKenzie colleagues – I saw many displays of respect, loyalty and dedication from each one of them. (By the way, Sally's NOT paying me to write this. In fact she has no idea.) When the opportunity for us to share office space presented itself, I jumped at the chance.
The hard part of this decision was the actual doing. This is the same process as goal setting. Deciding on the target is always so much easier than performing the actual steps. Well since I don't like change, I lived in denial and avoided the obvious for months. After 16 years in the same 2,000 square foot office you can just imagine the stuff I accumulated. Yet I didn't start sorting through things until a few days before the moving date! Two, fourteen-hour days later I was waiting for the movers, madly packing the last of the files. What wasn't sorted or packed got thrown into a ‘catch-all' box. Okay, boxes.
When the unpacking of furniture and boxes was done, I thought the worst was over. However, while the big things were in their places, all the little things were not. The insidious emotional enormity of the change hit me hardest on Tuesday. The parking lot was not empty as it had been during the weekend. I had to schlep a couple of residual boxes from my car to the office, making the no-nothing walk burdensome. My desk was disorganized. My post-it notes were in the wrong drawer. My phone line wasn't working. I felt like a fish out of water.
I am pleased to say that each day has been progressively better. I have calmed myself with the mantra, “Smile and breathe, smile and breathe”. I admonished myself to be thankful for how blessed my life is, especially in comparison to most of the world. I encouraged myself to remember that I would recover from the disorganization and find my rhythm again. I put things away ‘one box at a time'.
I am beginning to appreciate the new ‘homes' I have found for my stuff. I also like the heightened sense of confidence that comes from ‘ surviving ' a life challenge. I take pride in my ability to step outside my comfort zone intentionally in order to create the work world I want. I value the personal determination and resiliency that got me through the move; although it was only a temporary disruption, it was emotionally and physically exhausting. Most importantly, I have a deeper respect for those who choose to change, to better yourself and your life.
For those of you I have coached or am coaching, I applaud your strides, now more than ever. Keep up the good efforts ! And for those of you with whom I may have a coaching relationship in the future, rest assured I will be VERY understanding!
If you would like to explore your preference and reaction to change, contact Dr. Haller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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