We're not resisting change; we're resisting being changed
Justin heard that large doses of cod-liver oil were good for his Rottweiler. Each morning he’d put the dog in a headlock, force his jaw open, and pour the oil down his throat. It was always a big fight. One day the dog broke loose, and the oil spilled on the floor. Justin went to get a cloth to clean up the mess. When he got back, he found his dog licking up the puddle of spilled oil.

“Resistance to change” frustrates many managers. Change management programs aim to overcome that resistance. But most of us enjoy change — especially for the better. We often read new books, look for new movies or shows to watch, seek out new experiences, and explore new places.

Like the Rottweiler, embracing or resisting change has a lot to do with how much control we have. We’re often not resisting change; we’re resisting being changed. We hate having things done to us.

“Change management” often involves the “changer” pushing, cajoling, and even forcing top-down change on “changees.” Doing it to them. Leading change means pulling, engaging, and involving changees in a partnership. Doing it with them.

In his book, A Great Place to Work for All: Better for Business, Better for People, Better for the World, Michael Bush reports on how his research and consulting firm used their Trust Index Employee Survey to create an index they called the Innovation Experience. He writes, “It measures the extent to which all employees participate in activities related to innovation, experience leadership behaviors that foster experimentation, and feel inspired to move the organization forward. The results are striking. When we examined several hundred Great Place to Work-Certified companies, those in the top quartile on the Innovation Experience index had revenue growth more than three times the revenue growth of those in the bottom quartile.”

This is consistent with other studies on workplace happiness and well-being, such as the National Study of the Changing Workforce. In The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, Shawn Achor reports the study found, “greater feelings of control at work predicted greater satisfaction in nearly every aspect of life: family, job, relationships, and so on. People who felt in control at work also had lower levels of stress, work-family conflict, and job turnover.”

Tomorrow we publish my May blogs in the June issue of The Leader Letter. This issue focuses on leading change through working together. Decades of research continually shows that leaders working collaboratively with their teams and organizations have higher and longer-lasting success. In these crazy times, truly being in this together is even more critical. Cost reduction approaches such as lay-offs is — once again — a vital test of leadership rhetoric or reality. History shows that lay-offs rarely pay off. And partnering means working together — leading change by doing it with everyone, not patronizing or antagonizing by doing it for or to everyone.

Change, innovation, and transformation are keys to surviving and even thriving today. May you find ways to partnering for long term personal, team, and organizational health and prosperity.