Don’t ask the question, if you don’t want the answer.

watch-icon June 1, 2021

Don’t ask the question, if you don’t want the answer.

Many businesses engage change practitioners (internal and external) to give them advice about changing their business (thank you btw).  

They say that they want to change because they want their people to think more creatively, be more innovative, work differently, be motivated, engaged, efficient, productive etc. 

They say they are ready for change. They are ready to have a business that is successful and full of motivated and creative people. 

So, what isn’t being said? 

During the review, a problem or a gap is discovered. Something that is stopping the businesses from success.  

The practitioner diggers deeper to find the root cause.  Sometimes it’s the systems; sometimes it’s staff capability; sometimes it’s the leadership; often it’s all three. 

The dutiful change practitioner thinks that the business has engaged them to help them make their business great. So, of course, they tell the business about the gap/problem, ready to discuss the innovative solution they have up their sleeve. 

Unfortunately, the practitioner often faces a business leader who doesn’t want to know that their business isn’t all sunshine and daisies. They fell into the trap that all good change agents fall into occasionally….the “don’t ask the question when you don’t want the answer” situation. 

They didn’t ask the million-dollar question at the beginning. What are you willing to accept and willing to change? The business said they WANT to change but never said what they are WILLING to accept to change. 

Changing culture is a challenge mainly because you are trying to change a culture using the same culture you currently have. To change the culture, you have to change yourself first. You have to be willing to be very uncomfortable for a long period of time. You have to be willing to do things differently – even things you think are working for you.  

If you are an adaptive leader aiming for change, then you’ve had this experience. The Boss says I want the business to change, and then when faced with what is required, they run away.  

“No, you didn’t understand. I want them to change. Not me.” 

To have a creative, agile, and performance-focused culture, you have to be willing to change. Only through individual change will society or businesses change. 

Simon Sinek says: “start with why”.

I say: “Start with you”.  

What are you willing to change to create the life you want to live. Either at work, in your personal life, your behaviour, mindset, job/house/car/friends, etc. 

You can’t change others or circumstances; you can only change yourself. 

This means that you will have to face your fear and your ego head-on. The further up the corporate ladder you are, the more you need to be obvious about addressing your fears and ego. It must be done personally, of course, but your people will expect you to share your learning and will want to see you owning your vulnerability and the changes you need to make.  

Ps: it’s ok to screw up at this. You’re not going to get the changes right every time. When you screw up as a leader if you allow your ego to take hold and let go of ego, own your vulnerability and be courageous.

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Michelle Holland