Want to change? Great! But for whom?

Everyone wants to change for either something or someone. Changing for something (goals, vision, and the whole enchilada) is a great intent. And if you are up for it, good luck to you!

Changing for someone (your spouse, employer, friends, parents or the significant other) is a different beast altogether. Not that it’s impossible to do. It is but the challenge is that most of us opt a solo path to meaningful change. And believe me, it’s lonely out there. Probably you’ve been there yourself and know it. And if you do, chances are you may have left your journey to change midway. Disappointed, dejected and feeling depressed.

I’ve been there too. Many times. What I’ve realized is all change (big or small, for someone or something) needs an audience. No, I’m not asking you to declare your (noble) intent to a crowd of 50 or 5,000 people. (Besides being plain stupid) That’s a recipe for disaster as 80% of them don’t care and the rest of them wouldn’t want you to stop suffering (else why change?).

Let’s take the workplace as an example. Steve is a great employee. A talented software developer who’s got strong technical and project management skills. He’s got a great sense of humor too. Just that he often (well, most of the time) makes a clown of himself. He enjoys the attention that he gets and loves to see people jive and relax. And yes, of course, everyone loves him! Yet, he wouldn’t get a promotion for as long as he’s working for the company. Why? Because he’s got a reputation.

Now, Steve’s been on the path to meaningful change (thanks to his well-meaning supervision) quite a few times but each time he goes the distance, he gets distracted and gets knocked off the track. He once gave it all, stayed on the path to “change” for almost a year before he applied for a Project Manager’s position. Only to be rejected. Why? The selection committee still had the perception that Steve’s not mature enough to handle a project manager’s responsibilities. Sure, he’s got good solid skills but he doesn’t seem to have the caliber.

Can you sense where I’m going with this?

It’s simple, no matter what Steve does he simply cannot get past the “perception” hurdle. The most effective solution for him would be to leave this job and hunt for something that is bigger and better. Or hope for the stakeholders (the selection committee) to look for better opportunities outside the organization. Sure, dream on. Right?

What’s a better way? It’s simple — involve the key stakeholders, supervisors, managers and whoever seems to be an influencer or have a say in the decision-making process in your journey to meaningful change. These people, if they mean well, would be glad that Steve reached out to them for inputs and will be delighted to be able to “help him” to change for the better.

Steve now will have to create a process around these stakeholders and see the magic happens. It’s simple. Definitely not easy. And he will have to be consistent with his efforts to follow-up with the stakeholders for feedback and feedforward every 3-4 weeks, thank them for their inputs, create an action plan based on the stakeholders’ inputs, work the plan and get back to them. It’s a loop that can go on for months. Typical engagements (for people like Steve and/or higher level executives) range from 9 to 12 months.

Using a tool that measures change would be even better. External coaches usually have such tools in their toolkit. But you can probably use an excel spreadsheet or Google Sheets (my favorite, besides the tools that I use for my client engagements) to get started. What gets measured, gets done. Remember? This isn’t any different.

There you have it — a change management process for an individual. And it works all the time. Why? Because other people, the ones for whom you’re trying to change, are involved in the process. They’re the best coaches to guide you towards the path that’s the best for both you and them.

Isn’t that obvious? Probably not. But now you know. Go ahead and change for the good, but be sure to involve the ones who matter to you.

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