Monday, October 19, 2009

Virtuous Intent and Ingrained Beliefs

I recently spent some time with the Chairperson of a small non profit organisation. This organisation has been experiencing problems between the committee of management and a paid employee. At our meeting I suggested to the Chairperson that nothing was changing because everyone kept doing the same ol things, that if she wanted a different outcome then she needed to do something different to achieve it.

The Chairperson nodded and agreed with everything I suggested yet it was clear to both of us that nothing was likely to change. Why not? My belief is that the Chairperson is conflicted between her desire to be consultative and conciliatory and the need to be decisive and provide leadership. The next day I watched a television doco showing how religous belief in India was preventing those people reliant upon the Ganges river from taking steps to minimise pollution or even avoid harming themselves through bathing or drinking from the Ganges.

These two experiences caused me to reflect upon how our ingrained beliefs can become barriers to our own wellbeing or success. How often have you observed someone in a management position defy reason and maintain practices that have passed their use by date? Our fear of change can also be a barrier. Change is hard work, it requires new practices which in turn mean we must challenge our own beliefs and assumptions, we must accept the possibility that we are no longer right. This is not something any of us find easy to do. It is much easier to maintain the status quo.

The issue here is not that we cannot change. The real issue is the impact our reluctance to change has upon other people - the very people we want to help. The more reluctant someone is to change the more energy and time they must invest in maintaining the status quo or avoiding change. This is so wasteful. While this is taking place more positive and productive outcomes are being missed. People who once respected you cease to do so. People who once supported you start finding reasons to support others. People who once wanted to work with you now prefer to work elsewhere.

The irony is that change is inevitable. You become blinded from reality by the sheer investment you have to make to maintain the status quo. You not only fail to see the opportunities; you also fail to see the forces marshalling against you. The inevitablity is created by you as you provide those forces with a reason to seek your replacement.

The challenge is to avoid remaining stuck in the past. While you have one eye on the present the other eye should be on the future. You should be constantly asking yourself what more can I do for our stakeholders, or what can I do better?

Are you stuck in the past? Are you still doing the same thing as you always have? How relevant is what you do and how you do it to current stakeholder needs? Are you failing to achieve a desired outcome? If so, then now is the time to do something different before someone else forces you to change against your will.

Let The Journey Continue

John Coxon
Taking You From Frontline Manager to CEO
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