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.

20130624-233950.jpg
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.

Advertisements

Knowing-Saying-Doing – Follow Through

Knowing you need to do something, does not necessarily mean it will happen…Saying it needs done, does not mean it will happen. The space between knowing and saying can be expansive, without a clear path to “the doing.”

Faulty Assumptions:
Follow through is the the Gold Standard for progress. Being a “do-er” requires a special subset to one’s personality. Often making the transition from the plan to the result requires a set of actions to actually perform the doing. Why is it so hard to follow through?

1. The belief that “it’s someone else’s responsibility.”

2. We don’t know how. It’s going to require too much effort.

3. A clear path to the finish line is not well defined.

4. There is too much confusion about what it is to do.

20130417-164841.jpg
Photo: Brian Dick

Somewhere there needs to be a path between knowing something needs to be done, and the actual doing. Becoming a problem solver and a “do-er” means that you’re willing to risk the effort, and time to get closure. The difference being do-ers and non-do-ers can include the following:

1. Do-ers can see opportunities and ways to follow through – “path clarity”

2. Non-do-ers are dependent on others and the outside world.

3. Do-ers practice ways and institute problem solving – they enjoy accomplishment.

4. Non-do-ers are happy with others showing the way.

In Summary:
Doing = Activity and Engagement

To obtain Follow Through means that there has to be a desire.

Doing = Activity + Engagement + Desire

What are you not accomplishing? What component is holding you back?

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?

20130417-152958.jpg

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)

20130311-082556.jpg

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.”

20121226-121608.jpg

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.

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

20121026-000954.jpg

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.

20121024-172602.jpg

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.

The Four Elements of Commitment to Change

Any kind of change or development requires implementation. Change is hardest for several reasons, and often requires constant effort and determination to see it through. The hardest changes require an enduring commitment, which is often easy to state but hard to do.

Commitment is the state of being where we do what we say. There is more to it however…

1. Purpose: The first component of commitment to a change is the why. Some ‘whys’ may match your intended change and others may not. Your purpose to a change is the meaning behind the change. In a sense it can be your mission to do what you seek to do.

20121019-103129.jpg

2. Sacrifice: Any change means that you have to do something to make it happen. This is often the hardest part of any commitment, because you have to go to a different level or experience different things to make headway. Making sacrifices means that you might have to give up something less important or more indulgent to make the change. Sacrificing is not merely a cognitive exercise. Rather, it is the doing behind the change.

3. Promise: A close component to making a sacrifice is the personal choice to maintain the commitment or change. This is where the long road toward the change begins and continues. This is where you’re in it for the long hall. You’re not turning back, or regressing into old behaviors. If you do, then you will need to recommit or make new promises, and new sacrifices to regain your direction.

4. Payoff: This is the fruit of your labor. For today’s crowd, we are often looking for instant payoff. This is usually not the case in real life. Anything that has a solid and important purpose, does not often happen overnight. It requires ongoing sacrifice, continued promises to yourself to get where you want to be.

Making change does involve commitment, but commitment requires more than the verbal or cognitive desires, choices and intent. It is a recurrent process of ongoing involvement in the change. Consider these steps as you are mapping out your next change effort.

The Obstacle of ‘All or Nothing’ Thinking

A part of the human condition is that we are all mistake capable. No one is really perfect, although it is healthy to strive for the best, and improve our results. How we go about that is often driven by the way we look at problems, and how we view “things” and our “relationships”

20121011-132650.jpg

The biggest obstacle often is ourselves. Humans have a tendency of seeking that things will always work out smoothly, and naturally, and we attempt to avoid pain and discomfort. That is how we’re wired. A problem arises when we are attempting to solve problems. Sometimes we develop an “either-or” mentality and miss the larger picture. We develop all or nothing thinking, there is no middle ground.

“A project team is trying to meet a deadline. Time is critical, and the deadline is looming. The senior manager seeks that the team approach the problem in a particular way, but gives the team little authority to look at alternatives to solving the problem. The problem solution has already been given, but the ‘how’ to do it, has not been determined. It would be easy for the team to adopt one polarized approach to meet the expectation. In their haste, they get a result, but failed to look at alternatives. The senior manager has scripted the team to limited options, and an all or nothing attitude develops, and key alternatives that might bring better results are missed.”

Sometimes the pursuit for the solution, and the will to demand a solution obscures one’s ability to consider options, a lot of them. When we look at things or relationships in dichotomous categories we basically shove everything else off to the side. We miss important options, ideas, and most of all straight jacket ourselves or team.

Individuals with life problems adopt the same “all or nothing” filter – which in the end keeps them from looking at all aspects that could bring potential solutions. It’s global thinking, but the global part means that everything is considered in the same way. Often times it is better to think in terms of possibilities rather than hard core givens.

Ways of avoiding the “all or nothing” mindset:
1. Frame problems as likely having many “approximate” not perfect alternatives.
2. Learn to evaluate all your alternatives, finding evidence for and against each one.
3. Understand that the world isn’t always the same.
4. Performance is about progress and moving forward, not exact perfection.

All or nothing thinking is an obstacle, but it is also very changeable. As long as you’re willing to consider that things in the world are not always perfect, you can consider that there are likely many explanations to problems you face on an individual, team or organizational level.