The Ripple Effect of Change

The majority of my time these days is spent with people and organizations that are growing, changing and transforming. As I was living my career path the past 20+ years, I didn’t appreciate how my specific background, set of experiences and personal style would position me to serve in a truly unexpected capacity. Listen to the personal stories from my past few weeks.

Last Tuesday, I worked with an organization that is overcoming normal resistance to change in caring and patient ways. They are working to balance the needs and desires of the newcomers with the preferences and traditions of those who have been around a while. For this group, the key mantra they are using is “It’s all about the pacing.”

Dina and Mike are two executives in the emotional process of re-imagining and re-inventing to create their next career story. Both leaders are navigating unplanned transitions. Each relayed their personal commitment to acting with optimism and knowing their value.

John is a past client I was fortunate to reconnect with last Friday. We picked up easily, despite it being 4 years since our last conversation. Within a few minutes we were discussing a change he is envisioning leading on behalf of his team. He intuitively knew which teammates would help the transformation make meaningful progress and who would actively resist. The unknown are those teammates who aren’t voicing concerns, opinions or support. Professionals who may be perceived as passively supportive yet end up quietly undermining.

Dan is a community leader who has been challenged to lead a cultural transformation focused on changing how they speak and treat each other in his organization. I just ended an ad hoc coaching sessions with him. Each day, he repeats his priorities out loud as he drives to work. “We want engagement not compliance. We must create the most positive experience possible, etc” It’s his way of staying focused on his long term goals. His text this morning requesting an unplanned session read: “I just lost my cool publicly. Taking a break in my office. Regrouping behind closed doors for now.”  

Brandon is an executive I’ll be advising tomorrow. Brandon has determined change is needed but isn’t quite sure what that change will look like. He’s started tapping his network to ask for opinions and advice. Smart and savvy, he knows how critical it is to collect information from a variety of sources, test his ideas with others and listen carefully for new ideas to add to his thinking.

Laurie is a leader with big goals and an inspiring vision of the future she wants to achieve. Our work together centers around the biggest problems she’s working to solve and staying connected to her inner power. We meet every other week. In a few short months, she’s made three relatively minor decisions that allowed her to reclaim her confidence and change the course of her life. All decisions that once acted on, caused her to exclaim “Why did I wait so long to do what I’ve known I needed to do?”

In a few weeks, I’ll be speaking and connecting with a group of professionals who are affirming each other through unexpected changes.  Each Monday night, they show up and support each other, share leads and celebrate wins. Through their shared experiences and a willingness to ask for and receive help, they are propelling each other forward.

Reflecting on these personal stories, two themes emerged.

  1. These strong individuals and growing organizations made the decision to act. They did not allow complacency, fear, ambiguity or perfectionism to prevent them from progressing towards their goals.
  2. They are maintaining a human focus and respecting the emotional journey that change inevitably creates. They remain humble, recognizing they may not have all the answers and proactively asking for help from colleagues, friends, family and professionals.

In my work, I challenge myself to help organizations and individuals have those ‘a-ha’ moments and uncover new insights to achieve the changes they want to make. So what is that valuable insight we can draw from themes of “Deciding to Act” and “Respecting the Journey.”

It is that so many different things can be the impetus for change: technology, information, consumer demand, competition, financial windfalls, (or more often financial constraints), weather, injury or loss, the list goes on. In many cases, these things are outside of our control.

Only People can lead the change. Only People can make decisions to act. Only People can put sweat into building the new behavioral muscles. Only People can respect each other’s emotional journey. Only People can be brave enough to ask for help. Only People can be kind enough to offer that help at just the right time and place.

Only People can make that first small change that creates ripples that will eventually have enormous impact.