Epiphanies for Everybody

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How To Change (part 1)

August 31, 20235 min read

How To Change (part 1)

In my last post, I gave some basic (but possibly difficult) ideas on what to change. Now I want to talk a little bit about how. This will necessarily be incomplete, but it’s a start.

Looking back at my previous post, what stood out for you as the basis for industrial management? Blame is obvious, but why do we need to know who to blame? Because of the train wreck, management lost all faith in their employees. Identifying every step, and every role, so they would know who to blame is a direct result of that lack of trust.

So, even closer to the core of industrial management than blame, is mistrust. Nobody is trusted to do the right thing. Nobody is expected to do the right thing without supervision. And the tacit expectation is that without you taking an active role, people would, at best, do nothing or, at worst, usually do the wrong things.

You probably don’t see yourself this way. I don’t blame you (see what I did there?). I didn’t either. Most of us don’t. But whether we see ourselves this way, or not, is irrelevant. We have, almost all of us, internalised a lifetime of beliefs about how organisations ‘should’ work, and how people ‘should’ behave, that are based on these assumptions. So even if you haven’t adopted them consciously, there’s a good chance that blame and mistrust are the unspoken beliefs that underpin a lot of what you do and how you behave toward your teams.

Photo by Matteo Di Iorio on Unsplash

Before you read any further, take the time to reflect and think about what I’ve said. Not just here, but in the previous article. Maybe I’ve got you all wrong; maybe you’ve always hated the way that management asks you to behave. You’ve done it, but internally been in a state of constant rebellion and aggravation. Maybe you’ve always been looking for a better way, but haven’t known what it was. The rest of the article will still be here when you get back.

If you want to shift your viewpoints away from blame and mistrust (no matter how the language has changed to try to hide the origins), start right at the very heart of the matter. Start here:

  1. What would it look like if my organisation believed, at its core, that people could be trusted?

  • How would employees and customers be treated?

  • What information would we share, and what would we keep private?

  • What would we tell people?

  • What processes would we have?

  • What governance would there be?

  • What practices would we have in place?

  • How would we recognise people’s contributions?

  • How is that different to what we have today?

  • What role do I play in that difference?

  • What role can I play in making the change?

I suspect, based on my own experience, that when you ask these questions, you’ll find that the way you treat people is far from how you would treat people if they were trusted. I’m not singling you out, or trying to shame you — I started in the same place. I went on a journey, just as many others have, of learning new ways of thinking and being that shifted my perspective. We are all on our own journeys.

Now that you’ve seen how things are different, it’s time to start thinking about how to tackle the change in you that you want to see in your organisation. This is where a guide, a coach, or a mentor, can really speed things up, and help you be honest with yourself about whether you’re tackling the challenges, or shying away from them.

The reason some sort of guide is so valuable is because what comes next is hard. When you looked inside, and found that your beliefs (hopefully unintentionally) align with blame and mistrust, it may have shocked you. When you thought about how your organisation would behave if it trusted people, you may have found that it’s miles away from where you are.

What we’re going to do next is answer the questions I posed before. Each one. You don’t have to have complete, or perfect answers. That’s not the aim. Instead, every time you dig deep to answer one of the questions, you may find yourself uncomfortable. Lean into that discomfort. Explore it. Find the cause of the discomfort. Understand it. Accept it. Address it. Come to peace with things. And finally, change it. That’s the change in you that will enable the change in your teams and your organisation.

If you aren’t ready to face that level of discomfort, that’s OK. There are numerous companies that are highly successful operating under the old management rules. There’s a good chance you’ll be able to finish your career before new ways of thinking become mandatory for success. So you don’t have to be in any rush. But when you’re ready, we’ll be here.

Knowing that you want to change isn’t enough. You have to want to change, know what you want to change to, and how to change. The process is long and, often, difficult. It will have setbacks. It won’t be smooth sailing. When you’re ready, change will come. And when you’re looking at the world with your new perspective, you’ll marvel at how far you’ve come, and how much different things look, from your new vantage point. New ideas will come to you, and new ways of interacting with people will seem obvious, when they wouldn’t have occurred to you before. It’s a journey I’ve been on, and one I suggest for anybody who hasn’t been on it, yet.

Let me know if you want a guide.

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