Conscious Business

To change or not to change

Written by Charlie Efford

I recently got asked a question along the lines of – What do you need to do to motivate and transform the way people run their organisations? This is a great question and got me thinking about a whole range of issues.

I often talk about change and what it would take to transform the way the big corporations operate. I also know very well that organisations won’t change unless the people running them want to do things differently. Therefore organisation change is really about people change.

I then run into a problem. If I want someone to change, the subtext is usually that I want them to comply with my standards. Once I start imposing my will, albeit subtlety, I clash with an important value of mine – ‘Acceptance’.

I try to accept people as they are and do my best to resist judging them. Despite my intentions I fall short on a regular basis. When I do get it right, and trust people to make their own choices (and take responsibility for them), it’s funny how often things change for the better without my intervention.

I am clear therefore that it is not my job to make people change. On the contrary, if I deliberately try not to change people and work on accepting them instead, then they will usually change beneficially without my guidance.

This shifts the focus of my work to raising awareness and helping people think through the changes they want to make. Raising awareness starts with addressing the unconscious barriers that get in the way. These are often

  • Fear of the unknown
  • Habit
  • The safety of familiarity

Any instinct to change will not succeed until there is sufficient energy to overcome these obstacles. These barriers also exist collectively within an organisation. Overcoming them takes skill, persistence and resolve. Organisation change can take years if this is not done well.

Helping someone to lower their barriers is only part of the picture. The other part is creating a vision of what things could be like. Einstein famously said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”. This means exposing people to new ideas and new ways of thinking – perhaps raising consciousness rather than awareness. Much of the world is locked into the western economic way of doing things. We compete for resources and market share and run our organisations accordingly. There are other models and we could do things differently – if we dared.

So to go back to my original question, “What do you need to do to motivate and transform the way people run their organisations?”

The long answer is:

  • Recognise that organisation change is really about people change
  • Let go of the need to change people and focus on acceptance instead
  • Help people become aware of and overcome their internal barriers
  • Help people look at the world with fresh eyes

The short answer is:

  • Be the change – live, breathe and become the change you believe in and let people follow you – if they want to.

About the author

Charlie Efford


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