Monday, April 17, 2017

The dark side of leading change that no one talks about

Change, innovation, or disruption are typically discussed and viewed in most circles as a linear journey that when executed correctly, can bring about a fundamental shift in the way a business operates, how an industry can be reinvented, or how the world can be better for it.  

It sounds so neatly packaged when change rarely is anything but neat. 

Change is messy. 
Change is tough.
Change is ambiguous.

What is rarely discussed is the underbelly or the dark side of the journey of a change agent:   

  • Loneliness and/or alienation for your beliefs.  Accept the fact that depending how radical your beliefs are, you will not be popular. The very people your efforts will directly benefit will doubt or resist.   In fact, it is in times of change you find out who your true friends and allies are.

  • The valley of failure.  For every milestone of accomplishment, you will face several milestones of failure.  You will have rough days and you will get tired. While failures are actually a good thing because it leads you closer towards an innovation, it can be tough to live through particularly when the failure streak appears to be longer than the winning streak.

  • Persecution from likely and unlikely sources.  While a lot of people complain about status quo, many rarely ever want to truly change. “This is the way we have always done things” is commonly stated.  It is deemed too much work and your efforts have the possibility for resistance and at worst, sabotage sometimes from surprising sources.

  • The possibility of never being recognized for your efforts. The commonly known person in history that may have been recognized for a change was most likely not the person that first attempted the change.  In some instances, they may not have even been the 100th.  For example, Christopher Columbus is commonly taught in western schools as having “discovered” America when in fact we know has been found to be untrue.   

  • The personal sacrifice. You have to truly believe in a purpose larger than your own personal agenda and be willing to personally sacrifice.  Most change agents are motivated and so passionate about their beliefs that they are willing to make sacrifices to continue to push the envelope.  Some change agents have paid the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives (or lives of loved ones) to help bring about a change.

Is it worth it?  Only you know the answer to that question.  Real change is not for the faint of heart – it’s a “go hard or go home” type of effort.  Change agents should always live by a key principle: change is not about you.   The moment you make the change about you (i.e., how it will make you look, what you can benefit from the change, etc.) is the moment you have lost the battle.  

Believe in the change with an unshakeable, ironclad conviction to live through the peaks and valleys. Allow your genuine conviction to infect those around you. The right energy and conviction of your change will attract allies and support at seemingly impossible times.  Collective wins (big or small) give you the momentum to continue on our change journey.  The certainty of your beliefs will overcome any obstacles placed in your way.