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Only 5% of workplace psychology research is successfully put into practice! (Or something close to that – I am going on memory here)

I got that from Spark on CBC radio several months ago. They were talking about workplace stress and stress in general. I remember because I was driving home from church – not stressed, but happy. That feeling of my happiness contrasted with the frustration from the panel sticks with me.

What also sticks with me is not so much the precise statistic, but the idea that not having enough knowledge is obviously not the problem. It lies in something more basic.

While is true that you-can-lead-a-horse-to-water-but-you-can’t-make-him/her-drink-it, I am frankly tiring of hearing that change-is-hard. It’s not that I deny that change is hard, or that we don’t know why it is hard. And if you believe the panel on Spark, we even know what to do about it. It’s that for some reason, we just don’t seem to able to do it.

So what makes me tired is that I have heard so much analysis about why change is hard, but I have heard far less about the actual nuts-and-bolts of actually doing it – actually putting a change strategy in place and sticking it out.

I think one of our major challenges is to not shoot ourselves in the foot before we get out of the gates. We probably do that a lot – shoot ourselves in the foot – and the whole change process is doomed before we start.

Because we know change is hard, I think two things happen.

One is that we gravitate towards a complicated process of change – in some kind of Freudian subconscious way. Two is that anxiety takes over and we rush into things without getting ourselves “spiritually ready” to actually embark upon the process of change.

If had to choose which one is more important. I would say being spiritually ready is more important. Why? Because a great team will make even a bad process work better. But an ill prepared team is capable of sinking just about anything.

So, is there a way of working to better embark on the change process?
I say YES. I offer these 3 sets of observations:

OBSERVATION 1: What kind of attitude does leading change take?
Three things must be present before any change strategy is implemented – Forgiveness. Compassion. Respect. This is what it means to “hear with your heart”.

Change is awfully like a faith journey. Each “marker on road” will look slightly different to each person impacted by whatever changes are taking place. The “spirituality” of change (if I can use that word) involves adopting an attitude that moves us from “listening with our ears” to “hearing with our hearts”.

OBSERVATION 2: – What are the things to look out for as a change strategy is being developed – BUT – before it is implemented?
Leading organizational change has at least 7 important elements that need to be factored in:

  1. Change management is hard. Why? Because there is a “human residue” that can linger through loss.
  2. There is pressure when people turn to us for answers. Be aware and do not succumb into making rash statements. Be leery of “change experts” who do not need to stick around to face the music when things get difficult.
  3. Change and culture are linked. Take the time to know the culture you are changing (what you believe – why you believe it – how you live out those beliefs). Connected to this is that passive-resistance should be seen as a red flag that something is amiss, and not seen as something totally irrational.
  4. What is the “deal” you are making with each other? Understand the nature and weight of the promises you are making to each other.Respect those promises, because no amount of “convincing” will persuade someone to change if they feel a fundamental promise has been broken or trust is lost.
  5. Honour the past. There is always pain in the loss that comes with change. Change, even change for the better, always involves some level of grieving.
  6. What are you changing to? Not all change will be towards a better structure – often change involves making do with less while still trying to be true to your values. Acknowledge this and promise openness in the change process.
  7. Be realistic about how long the change will take. It will most likely take as much as twice as long as what you think at the outset. So don’t promise a rose garden. Pollyanna will end up being a bitter pill to swallow.

(With great thanks to Michael Presley of Rideau Park United Church and the Univ. of Ottawa https://socialsciences.uottawa.ca/public-international-affairs/people/presley-michael)

Would you like to be a “change-positive” presence that helps bring about positive change? Consider building a regular spiritual practice into your life that is part of a community and is service based AND that is concerned with helping people grow intellectually and emotionally – like a progressive church that focuses on inclusivity.

OBSERVATION 3: How you start the “conversation” sets the tone – There is a good way and there is a better way.
This is NOT a change strategy. This is a way of working to cultivate a hearing heart SO THAT we can more successfully enter into whatever change strategy we choose.

While I developed this slide with my church in mind, there are things here that are universal. The beauty of this is that your change strategy grows with you as you grow together.

Change is hard but – almost like a space shuttle entering the atmosphere – the actual way to move into it doesn’t have to be complicated. You need to ease into it. It has the potential to be a beautiful, grace filled thing.

As always, thanks for listening. Hope this is food for thought.

And as always, I love to hear your comments.

Be blessed. Be a blessing.

Rev. Eric Lukacs