I was absolutely terrified. I’m not kidding you, and it’s not something I take a lot of pride in saying as a career Green Beret but, four years ago, just down this river here when I retired at MacDill Air Force Base after almost 23 years in the Army, the change that I was facing was—it was terrifying. It was one of those things where there was so much of the unknown out there that I just wasn’t sure how to process it and the reality is putting my boots ‘up on the wire’ (a term used when leaving the military) and retiring after years of service, it jammed me up in a major way. Sure, there were lots of opportunities associated with it, but the fear of that change was terrifying.
Guys and gals, this is the first in a series of video blogs around rooftop leadership where I’m going to be talking about mindset and, in particular, today, I want to talk about the power of change. I want to talk about the impact that change and overcoming and leading through change can have in our lives. I will tell you guys that what I went through when it came to dealing with change, I know you’ve gone through it as well. You know why I know that? Because I go all over the country and I speak and I train people. I’ve trained Fortune 100 commercial banks, mortgage companies, auto part companies, you name it, oil-and-gas, they are always wanting me to talk on how you lead through change. As a career Green Beret, I saw it over and over again how people in rough places are so afraid of change. It’s not that change doesn’t hold opportunities because it does, but most people, change jams them up so much that it precludes them or prevents them from living into their dreams. That is what I want to talk to you about today. Change is scary stuff but I don’t want change to jam you up. And so, we’re going to analyze it today and we’re going to get real on what it is about change that jams us up and how we overcome it.
The first thing that I tell people all the time is that you need to understand that everyone feels this. It has nothing to do with how tough you are. It has nothing to do with how resilient you are. You are going to feel apprehension when it comes to change. That is just the human change. That is the human dynamic. How we process and respond to those feelings differs with different people and this is the training we want to get into. But it is absolutely critical to know that change is emotional and change is going to have that kind of effect on you and everybody feels it. As a leader, we have to remind ourselves that the people who work for us, our children, our families, also, they are going to feel emotional aspects of change that we might not feel, and so, we’ve got to always be mindful of that.
One of the things that jams us up, the big challenges about change, is that it is emotional. I actually took a poll a while back, a Facebook poll. I went in and looked at surveys from Entrepreneur magazine and other places and I’ve asked audiences.
Here are the Top 10—changes that jam people up:
- A loss of control.
- A fear of failure.
- Excessive uncertainty that going this way might actually make it worse.
- It didn’t work before.
- It requires a change of reality
- There is a possible loss to face; maybe I’m not as competent in the world of this new change.
- It is going to require more work.
- Maybe it has ripple effects down the line that I cannot foresee.
- Maybe I have resentments against the person who wants the change or they have resentments against me. Why should I change? That dude screwed me over a year ago.
- And then, finally, it reminds us that time is ticking away. Every time our kids go off to college, we’re reminded that we’re not getting any younger.
These are the Top 10 that I’ve found but there are all kinds of aspects of change. What you should have noticed in every one of those is there is a deep emotional component to it.
Here is what I would tell you. One of the most prolific tips that I have in terms of leading through change is this—meet people where they are. Meet them where they are. I write about this as a chapter, as a game-changer, in my book Game Changers. In some of the roughest places on earth where we were dealing with big change in villages where people have been intimidated their whole lives—they were war torn, they didn’t want to take action for their own community. Look, we had to meet them where they were. We had to meet them where they were. That is the same with your employees. That is the same with your associates. That is the same with your kids, with your family members, with your clients. When change happens, we get emotional. We go into a scarcity mindset and if we’re not able as leaders to meet people where they are, they are not going to come along with us.
Here are some very specific actions that you can do to meet people where they are:
- Listen to understand. If you haven’t learned how to listen actively and it’s a skill, then you need to work deeper with me because that is a key thing.
- Then, we want to understand what emotions are at play. As I listen, as I lean into it, what emotions are at play here? Like, those Top 10 that I read. Is it perceived resource scarcity? Is it status? Is it competence? What is their play?
- Then, I want to get them ready to listen to me about how we’re going to move through this change. That is number three.
- The fourth way to do that or the fourth step is to talk about the miles that you’ve run, the scars that you’ve developed along the way, and help them understand that you know what they’re going through. That you get where they’re at. And then, turn that into vision of what is possible.
What you are basically doing is, in the first three, you are ascertaining what the emotion is. You’re making sure you’re very clear on it. And then, by talking about where you’ve been and where you’re going, you are connecting with them. Through an emotional level, you are letting them know that you get where they are and here is what is possible down the road.
So, listen to understand. Understand what emotions are at play. Get them ready to listen. And then talk about your experiences, the experiences of your company, your business, your team, and the vision that you have. When you do that, watch what happens. It is transformational.
If you don’t do this, if you just try to jam it on your people from the top down—”because I said so, dammit”—it doesn’t work because it is an coercive aspect and they are going to have a visceral reaction to that. They are going to withdraw from you. They physiologically cannot hear a word you say. So you’ve got to meet people where they are and if you do, they will follow you to the rooftop. That is the first big step I would say in mindset.
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Until next time, I’ll see you on the high ground.