Frustration is an easy emotion when you either see opportunities for change in our work, but don’t see others moving to the point that you have envisioned. In one day, I remember talking to a group of administrators, teachers, and parents, and I noticed something amazing. When working with the teachers, there was a comment that they wanted change, but were blocked by their administrators and parents within the community, some of the administrators said they were slowed by the teachers and parents, and then the parents said (I bet you can see where this is going) said they wanted something different but the schools (educators and administrators) were not making it happen.
The mindset was that was change was something in the control of others, when reality states that we are often our own barriers to the change process. If we want to create conditions where others see the importance of and are willing to embrace change, is does not start with giving answers, but asking questions, listening, and understanding. Change is not something you do to others, but something we experience ourselves.
With that being said, if we get to the point in leadership that we are frustrated that others won’t change, we are missing the point of why we are in leadership in the first place. Simply telling someone to change will not work, but helping to create experiences where people make emotional connections where they see their own change is imperative is crucial. Showing someone that something is “better”, does not mean they will embrace it. People are often more comfortable with a known “average”, than an unknown “good”. Helping others get to a place where they are willing to risk trying something new is crucial, and modelling that we are willing to take risks ourselves is crucial.
Here are a few questions that I think are imperative to creating the conditions for change to not only happen, but to flourish:
1. How do I continuously model that I am willing to grow to those that I serve?
Asking people to take risks does not happen without leaders that openly model taking risks. Leaders continuously learn and grow, but if it is hidden in a space where those we serve cannot see, then their reluctance to change is warranted by the lack of change happening from the “top” of the hierarchy. Many feel, “Why would I change, when those above me are not willing to do the same?”
2. Do people have an emotional connection to why change is imperative, not just what change looks like?
Leadership is about heart and mind; both elements need to be focused upon. If we are not able to connect on a deeper level or feel why change is imperative, others will not be compelled to try something new, especially without the guarantee of immediate success.
3. As leaders, have we removed barriers that help us to unleash talent, not control others?
People always want better, but they often not only deal with their own reluctance, but sometimes page after page of policies and procedures, or structures (both physical and organizational) that are barriers to change.
As mentioned earlier, we can only control the path and direction that we decide to go in, not that of others. What is important is creating the conditions where people are not only willing, but even feel compelled to move forward in a safe environment where risks are not only tolerated, but encouraged.