Leading Change Through the Barrier of Doubt

Proposing a change almost always leads to some measure of doubt. Be prepared with your “thick skin”, because where there is something new, there is likely someone out there to doubt your vision.

Envisioning the future is not a comfortable endeavor for some, for the following reasons:
1. It requires others on your team to see what you see.

2. Seeing something new, means that some discomfort might need to be tolerated.

3. Sometimes a vision requires working through ambiguity.

4. Someone doesn’t share the same values. They don’t see what you see.

5. The need for control is high between individual team members. Collaboration is low.

Matter of fact, doubt is the opposite of possibility. Often the doubt is a way of adding a “rational reason” to why something won’t work, when there is likely little evidence that it wouldn’t work.

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Photo by: Brian E. Dick

Working through your vision to its conclusion requires the tenacity to take risks in the face of doubt. Knowing that doubt is a cousin to “fear of change”,and that ambiguity is the foundation to creating success, sticking with your plans and principles is the way to work through external doubt.

Ways to work though doubts:

1. Build a team that shares the same value for the change

2. Base your vision on clear principles

3. Accept your detractors – there will always be detractors…

4. Accept the ambiguity between the vision and the planned outcome.

Each step toward the planned outcome of your vision should actually strengthen your resolve to change and over time lessen the doubt that comes from external sources.

Take Charge of Yourself

A problem for the busy professional is the ability to work through the “noise” of everything demanding your time.  No matter how much you plan, work on productivity or “work smarter”, not harder, the surf keeps pounding, and you’re wondering whether what you do counts.

The Problem

The problem is not that people are (not) good at what they do. It is that they don’t feel they own enough of themselves to make things happen that they believe are important.  The outside forces work on them, demand them, and ask of them for many things.  The more capable, and better result driven person you are, the more likely that others will come to see you as someone they need assistance from.  

The Reversal

It’s good that your good at something, and that people believe in you.  If you’re a leader, it makes it even more critical that the subtle forces of everything else don’t drown out the following things:

  • Your ability to think about what you are doing.
  • Your ability to institute changes and developments that prove helpful to yourself and others.  
  • The ability to tap into your desire to be effective, and do what is needed.

The Solution

The solution is not a cookbook.  It is about having the resolve to realign what you already know is important, in a more centered way of your life.  Remember, you are the solution, but looking at external resources may be important to address the demands, and ensure you are able to institute what you need to maintain good balance.

  • Say no to certain things.
  • Stay connected with what gets shoved underneath the rug.
  • Decide the importance of things.
  • Change the impact of certain demands, reassign others, schedule the important.
  • Get to the key root causes of the problem.  Look for ways you have addressed these issues in the past.

Only you can change you.  A lot of fine things and people can push how and what you do. It’s never too late to re-evaluate and make course corrections.  Chances are, you may need to do this on a regular basis, to ensure you are staying true to your mission.

Healthy Discomfort and Change

Change is a constant, but I’m sure that comfort with change will never change…it will continue to be uncomfortable.

Much has been written on a daily basis about change, making changes, personal growth, and adapting to change. It is popular fodder for discussion, but in real life making changes – if done well, is down right uncomfortable for some. It’s easy to discuss and think making change. If change is real, it can be uncomfortable.

A View to Consider:
“Making improvements and change should be uncomfortable in a healthy way. If we’re not comfortable with it, then it may just be window dressing. Real changes require us to be uncomforble (at least cognitively and behaviorally) in order for them to stick.”

The concept:
Cognitive Dissonance: The idea that what we think-feel-behave, is at some kind of mismatch with other known circumstances. Just because we know what needs to be done, doesn’t always lead to the change. Instead, the gap is closed by denial, procrastination, and self-defeating behaviors.

The reasons why some people don’t change:
1. Change requires choice and follow though. Some people don’t possess either.
2. Discomfort means we have to confront our beliefs about the world, and our shortcomings.
3. People like to hold on to old ways. The problem is not immediate or urgent.
4. Weaknesses are not a popular topic.

If a change is needed, there has to be a clear payoff. No payoff, then there is little desire to institute a change. For some, delaying what we think we need to do, will eventually ACT on us, and something will need to be done.

Change is both Uncomfortable and Process:
If you’re not uncomfortable making a change, then what you’re doing is not change. If you think change is a matter of a task list, you’re into self-deception. Change is also not about someone doing something to you. It is about doing something different yourself.

The Change Process:
1. Knowing you have to make a change.
2. Identifying the personal sacrifices that have to be made.
3. Making and keeping promises….repeatedly. And, then again.
4. The payoff – Why are you doing this?

What is keeping you from real change?

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Transferring Skills – Learn by Doing

The challenge is not the learning…Everyone can learn something new. The problem is transferring what was learned into meaningful action, and visible results.

At the end of a recent 2 day psychotherapy conference that this writer attended, the presenter remarked: “It’s not the theory that changes people, people change people” – Anthony Mannarino, Ph.D

In many contexts both personal and professional, managerial or with personal clients, the Learning-Doing, implementation challenge is present. How successful we are with our teams, business units, clients, or ourselves is based on the choices we make about what we just learned. Making the connection between knowing and doing requires some effort that goes well beyond taking in information.

Making The ConnectionSkill Transfer
In most cases transferring something we know into a visible product means making a choice. You can say or think the skill all you want, but pure doing is the road to getting a result.

Ways of Making the Connection
1. Practice the concepts
2. Put an end to your avoidance
3. Teach what you learned
4. Evaluate the results
5. Practice again

Working with Clients:
Means you have to teach them how to practice. Create do-able action steps that eliminate the avoidance to do the learning. Encourage.

Working with Teams:
The team creates the steps and shares the practice tasks. The team compares their results with the practice.

Working with Staff
Translate the doing into a visible representation that helps others get to where they are going, thus implementing the learning over time.

Fortitude is usually the defining quality to skill transfer. Those that really want it, are usually those that achieve the results. (Photo by: Brian Dick)

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Does Your Personal Investment Inspire You?

“If it (whatever it may be) isn’t inspiring you, what is the purpose of your investment in it?”

This is the question that we should all ask ourselves on a regular basis. It is very easy to fall into the trap of what we think we should do compared to what we would prefer to do.

Reasons Why We Fail to Look at What Inspires Us
1. A change appears to require too much effort.
2. We are worried about what people might think
3. Avoidance
4. The gravity pull is too great.
5. We are in survival mode.

Too often, do we not settle for what we have rather than evaluating whether we are really happy? The “co-dependence distortion” can tell us that any change may not matter or we fear that a change to something more inspiring is not something we deserve or can even consider.

Evaluate Whether You are Inspired
Here’s three questions you can use to evaluate whether what you are doing is inspiring and meaningful:

– do you feel excited about it everyday, does it captivate you?

– do you feel your activity enhances your enjoyment of other critical relationships?

– Are you lagging or contributing?

You’re the one that has to live with the experience. Why not make it something that inspires you. (Photo by Brian Dick)

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Moving Beyond Barriers: Open Up Clarity

One of the most frustrating aspects of barriers is that they are perpetuated by the person experiencing them.

Let me explain:

The Self-Perpetuation Cycle
1. An external barrier is seen as too overwhelming
2. We are too obtuse to solutions.
3. We’re too busy trying to get “validated” for our victim thinking about the barrier
4. We actively create a road sign on our back that says “barrier.”

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Seeing Something as Too Overwhelming
What you see is not necessarily what is true or accurate. In the field of psychotherapy, a prominent evidenced based treatment (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) takes on the whole notion that what we automatically see, is not necessarily based on actual reality. The problem is that humans don’t often consider alternatives or evaluating the problem in the first place, thus leading to an automatic overwhelming feeling that fuels the barrier. No clarity on what/how to proceed is the outcome.

Being Obtuse
When barriers are taken for face value, sometimes we close off meaningful reflection on what our role is to do something about it. Instead we obsess, complain, and seek being validated for our erroneous way of looking at the problem. This is like giving up the ship. Creative intention is stymied. We settle for the concrete, instead of seeking other possibilities.

We’re into Validation Victim Thinking
Because we have abdicated any meaningful reflection of our role in the barrier, or what we are going to do about it, we develop a toxic and dead end road mentality. Instead of seeking solutions, we seek sympathy. We say to others, that the issue is outside us. Sympathy is the slow killer to doing something and moving beyond the barrier.

The “Road Sign” on Our Back
The worse aspect, is that we carry around our victim status on our back for everyone to see. We live our barrier, keep our rigid thinking, and exist in misery. Our capacities are dulled, and no movement beyond the barrier is evident. Actually others start distancing themselves from us, because they are uncomfortable with the stance we have taken. Our emotional road sign steals all the air in the room.

Moving Toward Clarity
Clarity and movement around the barrier is only brought about if we can restore the following:
1.Look at our role in the barrier
…is it merely the way we are thinking
about it?

2.Open up ourselves
– Honestly, and deeply reflect on the problem. Face the harsh music of what role you played in your response, or the original barrier.

3. Open up Time to Explore:
Explore more about, and evaluate the barrier. Was it a “boiling frog” that has been going on a long time, or just a bad choice, or a change in the conditions that we didn’t see.

4. Think Ahead.
One of my leadership mentors has preached this principle for many years. By thinking ahead, you gradually own more of your future, rather than becoming a victim.

5. Road Signs Eventually Wear Out.
Ultimately, your job is to create action oriented behaviors, rather than road signs that tell others your problems.

Ultimately, we are the “self perpetuators” of the barrier, not necessarily the barrier itself. Think about your role in problems, even if you didn’t create them. It may be just a matter of thinking and acting differently about the problem.

Developing Perspective: The Skill Behind Effective Leadership

When a photographer composes a portrait or prepares to take a photograph, she must also have a perspective on the subject that lies before her. Choosing the right lens, and carefully planning the layout of the picture takes a skill that knows different perspectives are involved, and there is many ways to create the right outcome and effect, as that photo is taken.

Leading is really no different. It requires a broad experience base that understands how to achieve an outcome or desired effect. The leader learns how to choose the right lens, and combine the right adjustments to create the best outcome.

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Knowing different perspectives is important why?
1. Expanding decisions beyond the concrete: Having depth. A leader that has depth has a greater range of understanding about the problem, but also a greater range of pattern recognition to attack the problem in the most intuitive way.

2. Different problems require a wider range of perspectives: Let’s face it, the world is complex sometimes. Like the great photographer than knows how different lighting and lens will affect the outcome of a composition, a deep thinking leader will often know how different attributes affect or will directly influence different outcomes.

3. Having more “tools” about a situation, means that more variables can be thought through, thus avoiding pitfalls and hazards along the way. Obviously this is why experience and skill count with leadership, although a perspective taker needs to also be open to new ideas by others who may not have as much skill.

Ways that we gain more perspective-
1. Learn to “think ahead”. It is a skill, and can be taught. Those that learn to think ahead, often can see many more perspectives than the concrete or reactionary thinker.

2. Develop humility. Go into the day knowing that your team will teach you something. Over time you will gain sensitivity to many other opinions and perspectives. Many of our greatest national leaders (e.g. Washington, Lincoln, King, or Reagan to name a few…) exercised a leadership style of learning to learn from others – in order to make the next decision.

3. Finally, learn to connect dots. Pattern recognition, even connection of disparate ideas sometimes can determine the next course. In his 2005 Stanford University speech (often discussed, quoted and paraphrased), Steve Jobs – arguably one of our greatest innovative thinkers in this century, discussed the concept of learning to connect patterns “or the dots” between different things, and to be able to look at many different perspectives on how things may be received. Developing a healthy openness to do the mental mining with patterns, may provide several perspectives that were not previously thought of by others.

Learn to think originally, develop different perspectives, and be open to others. These are effective skills that will help you develop your leadership skills and talents.

Is It Reasonable? Is It Responsible? A Decision Making Model

How do you make decisions? Using intuition, a feeling, or temporary mood? Many people are often searching for simple ways to evaluate whether they are making good decisions. There are many ways to make decisions:

1. Through sheer experience…we have years of know how.
2. Through educated guessing
3. Empirical models, data, spreadsheets, statistics.
4. Others’ opinions, ideas, views.
5. Concrete skills

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Often there is no clear cut guideline, and practices may vary at different points. I have found that making so called “value decisions” where our decision affects others should consider two tangiblle principles:

Is it reasonable? Is it responsible? In this case, “it” refers to something that should be acted upon, addressed, or it could be a sensitive personal decision. Many times using these principles can be simply used to evalulate our own logic around a matter that is not clear cut, for example:

A decision needs to be made about a human resource matter. It involves a real person, her future, or her role in the organization. There are many concrete pieces of evidence for and against a chosen course, however the executive continues to go in mental circles trying to weigh each, until no clear decision can be made. It is a dilemma, one that cannot be easily determined. There are certainly evidence for moving this person into another position, but still other barriers and issues that could be created in the process. What should the executive do?

Evaluate each variable in terms of its reasonableness, and responsibleness
Simply asking the question as to whether one variable is reasonable, and responsible is a good starting point to get clarity and to center the decision on something principle centered. The answer will not be arbitary, but likely connect with deeper, and more important considerations. The leader’s own logic as to how the decision is made, can also be evaluated using these two concepts. It brings clarity, where ambiguity initially resided.

The next time you’re stuck with a problem, question the possible options in terms of their reasonableness, and whether they are responsible. You might be surprised how appropriate the conclusions you arrive at clear up your thinking about the problem.

Problem Solving: Your Key Strategic Advantage

In today’s society problems move quickly, and there are many choices that need to be made – often quickly. Building a brand, product, or providing a service is not only about the quality and the relationship, but it is also about the value and outcome or experience derived from the user. An important individual and organizational skill is how problems and dilemmas are solved, along with the outcomes achieved.

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Different Types of Problem Solving:
Problem solving is a combined integration of the experiencing, thinking and behaving aspect of our activity. Rather than look at the psychological theory, it might be more helpful to look at the practical approaches to problem solving.

1.) Look at the ways that have worked before. Over time, we may have drifted away from workable practices, and drifted from tried and true ways. When considering a problem, consider ways that have worked before. Adapt the new solution along the same lines.

2.) Consider ways that have not been tried.

3.) What are the alternatives…look for “exceptions” that might provide clues to solving the dilemma differently. “This product works, except________when this occurs.”

4.) What can be removed from the situation? Often times, we only consider solving the problem with the current variables. What would happen if we removed a variable. That variable might be the barrier keeping the solution obscured.

5.) What could be added? Would it create a different outcome? Remember that adding indiscriminately might add to the problem.

These are not exhaustive, but starting points to pull apart the problem into manageable elements. What might seem an exercise in Algebra, it is really not. The adage of “thinking out of the box” really is a limit to true problem solving because it doesn’t specify an approach, only a mindset. Try these techniques on your next organizational problem or interpersonal problem.