Disclaimer: this article is serious stuff about change. Please do not let the title mislead you into believing that it’s simply a cute story.
“We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses. “ ~ Carl Jung
I made a big decision recently involving the furniture in the living room. I, like many people, do not move my living room furniture around very often. But recently I noticed that I had one piece that I wanted to move – the dog bed. For years, the dog bed resided by the fireplace, (which we have not used in years) and now I wanted to see what it would look like by the front window. So I did it. I moved the dog bed. To be totally transparent, I was in pure autocratic leadership mode on this decision. I did not take a long time or consult with many others. If fact, the one stakeholder who would be impacted the most by this decision (the dog), was not consulted at all or given any advance notice what so ever.
One afternoon, Boomer came in from the back yard and headed over to his usual dog bed location only to find that his bed was not there. He looked confused. I called him over to the new location of his bed. He slowly made his way over to the bed and I invited him to lie down on his bed. NOW, WHAT BOOMER DID NEXT IS TRULY REMARKABLE. In fact, it is perhaps one of the most remarkable things that you will ever witness anybody ever do when dealing with a change. He TRIED IT OUT. He sat down and then reclined all the way down on his bed. It took him a few days to get fully accustomed to his new bed location. But after a few instances of going to his old spot, he remembered that his bed was now over by the window and would go to it and lie down. It’s been several weeks now, and the change is working quite well for everybody- dog and humans alike. He even has a better view and we may actually begin to use the fireplace.
I want to highlight the remarkable actions that Boomer took and put into perspective just why his actions are amazing. First, imagine someone came into your house, without consulting you, and moved your bed. What would YOU do? You’d probably start yelling “Who the heck moved my bed?” Maybe you’d turn to whomever lives with you and start accusing them of moving your bed and demanding answers. You would likely be upset that you were not consulted about this decision and insist that the bed be moved back. Now that sounds more realistic in terms of how change may go down in your organization or household doesn’t it? Heck! I don’t like it if someone moves the dish soap from it’s usual location.
But what did Boomer do? HE TRIED IT! It is so simple and yet, perhaps the most overlooked step in change theory. If you look at most of the change models out there, I don’t know of many that specifically call out “trying it out” as an explicit step. We talk about creating urgency, surveying all stakeholders, preparing for resistance, communicating the change, getting the right level of sponsorship for change in place, doing a potential pitfall analysis etc. etc. etc. But we miss an important step and maybe an important opportunity by not trying something out. It’s so simple and yet, we don’t do it. We’d rather plan, talk about, get ready, anticipate, argue and theorize about change. I’m not saying that carefully planned and vetted change isn’t important. Thoughtful approach when implementing change is vital. I am simply suggesting that sometimes we get stuck in analysis paralysis, especially when the change involves a shift in our OWN behavior. We resist, blame, drag our feet and maybe complain. We fly around and around the airport but never actually try to land the plane. And of course as I noted in my last article, “Be a Leader Not a Gas” hesitation turns into delay and delay turns into opportunity gone away.
Here is my simple invitation as modeled so eloquently and beautifully by Boomer. The next time you find yourself resisting, analyzing, or complaining about a change, please give this simple phrase a try- “Let’s just try it out and see how it goes for a while.” After all, you never know for sure until you whole hardheartedly try and that applies to whether it is a change in structure, policy, a new boss, new employee, new procedure, new work out plan, different toothbrush, restaurant, golf swing or even a new bed location. Give it a try.
“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” ~Alan Watts
I so much appreciate you taking the time to read this article. I hope that it makes a positive impact on you and your leadership. I wish you support, energy, courage and all the success that you can handle on your leadership journey. Please share your comments and thoughts with others, in the comment section below.