Bob Lieberman's Blog

Commentary and Tools For Empowering Change

Change Is An Act Of Faith

Change is just too darned risky and expensive, isn't it? That's why we avoid it. We pay the bulk of the cost up front, and the benefits don't come until later (if at all). A bird in the hand, and so on. That's why a willingness to change inevitably comes down to faith.

People decide to change because they have faith – in someone's understanding of the current state of affairs, in some vision of a future state, in someone's grasp of the challenges of transition, and in a collective ability to meet them.

No faith, no change. And faith, for all its rational, intellectual, and practical underpinnings, is an emotional thing. So it shouldn't surprise us that emotions determine the adaptability of an organization's work culture. A fearful culture digs in, and a hopeful one aspires to change.

That's why, as leaders, we always have two jobs. The obvious one is to provide a practical framework that permits aspirations to be realized. But the less obvious one is to provide a path for people to follow that moves away from their fears and into their hope. So if your leadership activities are limited to the usual suspects – strategic planning, delegation, business development, and communication – you are missing the boat.

You may think that my analysis is too deep for the business world. And your company's stellar performance may vindicate your style of practical leadership. But I would qualify your success with this phrase: "for current conditions only". By ignoring the emotional side of leadership, you are failing to enlist your company's collective creativity – creativity that makes adaptation possible. And you are dooming your company to fail as soon as conditions change significantly.

Adaptability comes only through the continual building and strengthening of the emotional connections between an organization's stakeholders and its leadership. Since most organizations, and most senior leaders, believe that emotions have no place at work, obviously some fundamental change is called for.

My technique for facilitating that change in your organization is to provide you with a change path that leads away from your fears and into your hope.

Here it is:

Above all, people want to belong, to be heard, and to contribute. If you can find the place in your own heart that yearns for those things, love yourself for it, and come from that place in every action you take at work, you will be amazed at how quickly your business will be transformed.

The magical part of this advice is that the workplace won't really change that much – it is you who will have changed.