Published in June, 2016 Invenio magazine 

Change is all about ‘to transform or to convert’ and is what as coaches and mentors we specialise in. 

Robin Sharma said ‘change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous at the end’.  It is so true and although this issue of Insight is about NEW!  New Business, New Transitions, each new starts with change!

Mahatma Gandhi said ‘You must be the change you want to see in the world’ and I would adapt this to say ‘You must be the change you want to see in your world’.

If you decide that you want to start a new business, then you are changing what you are doing now.

If you decide that you want to change your existing business into a new structure, you are changing what you are doing now.

To make a change we have to add the work that is required into what we are doing right now!

Sometimes it’s easier to ignore what we are doing now and implement the change.  Other times it’s easier to delay the change because the now is easier.  After years of working with change, I find it interesting now to reflect on the challenges:

  • I’m new so I want my way to be the way forward.
  • I’ve been here for years, so my way is the best way.
  • We’ve always done this, so why should we change?
  • Oh gosh! We’ve changed?
  • Time! I don’t have that.
  • New! Why should I want to learn something new at my age?

I remember doing my first financial software implementation in the early 1980’s when discs were 8 inches square and floppy.  Although I had done many audits of computerised systems with ticker tape, this was my first software implementation and the systems had changed.  Not only had the systems changed, but it was also my first experience of change management within an existing team.

One of my staff was a lovely lady who had seen huge number of changes in her life time which included being a member of the French Resistance during the war.  When our company took over a smaller company she joined the Financial Department and was promised a job for life by the Directors.  When I joined the company she was a surprise but someone who kept our Finance Department a happy place.  Although we ran one of the largest data processing systems for the City of London, she still did all our company expenses by hand.  Looking back, I realise how much not only my childhood but also having Marjorie working for me helped me learn about change.

As coaches and mentors we help our clients go through change whether we realise it or whether we don’t.  Whether the change is coming about because someone else has instigated it, or whether it is coming about because our client wants it and has made that personal decision – it doesn’t matter.  Change will instigate new!

Why is change important?  I am sure each person reading this question has their own answer and I would be interested to know what it is.

Whatever your answer, as Benjamin Disraeli said ‘Change is inevitable.  Change is constant.’  So my answer to ‘why is change important’? is to ask whether you will be led through the change or you will be involved in the change or you will instigate the change?

As the outcome of change is new, the options open to you give you the opportunity to impact the change on or in your life.

  • Instigating the change gives you full control.
  • Being involved in the change gives you the opportunity to influence the change.
  • Being led through the change leaves you with the biggest impact of change on or in your life.

Instigating the change means that you have made a decision that something has to change!  You are unhappy with something and you want something new.

Whether you are instigating the change for your own life i.e. a new career, a divorce, having your first or another child, starting your own business, changing the structure of a business – it is your decision and your choice.

You are in full control over what is happening and now and what you want to happen.

Being involved in change means that you can get involved in someone else’s ideas and put in your own thoughts and ideas. 

Someone asks you to marry them – you have a choice with your answer which could be ‘yes I will’ or ‘no I won’t.  Whatever the answer you have influenced the change. 

It could be that the boss has decided that this structure of the company doesn’t work for them and they want a new structure.  How much can you influence your boss’s ideas and thoughts?  How much of the ‘new’ is a dictate based on their own ideas, and how much is a discussion about the ‘what is not working’?

You may not be in full control over the change, but with the experience of ‘what did work’ and ‘what did not work’ from your perspective, you could have a positive impact on the outcome of the change.

Being led through the change.  It’s interesting because in my experience of corporates and dictating type management, staff were told about the change and led through it, without an understanding of the impact of the change.  New was installed and implemented!

Although it is sometimes difficult to have an influence on the change, if you have made the decision to be led through the change; then you have made the decision that may have the biggest impact on your life.

Impact on others!  Often when we are looking at change we forget about the impact on others.  Change comes from within and it often comes from a place of dissatisfaction.  It comes from a place of needing something different.  It comes from a place of wanting something new. 

If we take change from a place of dissatisfaction as coaches and mentors, we should be helping our clients to investigate the dissatisfaction.  Through this investigation the client will begin to understand what is not working for them but will also understand what is working for them.

When we started to do the new installation of software we spoke to Marjorie about it.  Someone in her late 60’s/early 70’s who had seen a huge amount of change, and been able to impact some of it.  She asked ‘what was wrong with what we are doing now?’  ‘Why do we need to move away from manual processes to computerisation?’  ‘Why do we have to do something new’?  The simple answer was ‘technology is making things easier’.  Automation through technology meant that the long involved manual processes could be simplified.  We agreed as a first step to leave the manual processing of expenses with her and we would focus on all other areas of computerisation, automation, and simplification.  A few months later she found a mistake in one of the Directors expenses.  It brought a laugh from the Director involved as she explained to herself mainly but so the whole office could hear about the lackadaisical way in which someone could just complete this form.  The error was that he was 2p out in his adding up.  Not knowing that the Director involved was in our offices chatting to myself and a member of my staff, she went on and on about accuracy.  Eventually the Director apologised.  Did is stop Marjorie?  No!  The outcome was interesting as the Director explained that if the system added up for him, he wouldn’t make the same mistake again.  Within a few weeks it had been agreed by the whole team including Marjorie that we need to move to automated expense sheets and that it would simplify her job if all she had to do was check them against the receipts.  At the same time, we automated the payment process which meant that Marjorie did not have to work out how many 1p and 2p pieces she needed to be able to pay them out.  Change implemented and new installed through understanding what was not working and would work better.

Having said that though, all change is not good.  Getting rid of the old and implementing the new may not be the right way to do something.  An article I read many years ago when I was first qualified as a coach highlighted this.  A well-known journalist in London happened to walk past her husband’s study door when she heard him talking about selling their house and moving to the country.  Shocked! she stopped and eves-dropped.  He was talking to his coach and although the journalist approved of her husband working with a coach, this shocked her.  The reason he had started to work with a coach was because he was unhappy at work.  A different topic, but this unqualified, unaccredited coach has encouraged the husband down a particular path of thinking.  At the end of the session, the journalist (used to asking questions) asked her husband ‘why they were moving’, especially as their very young son had just started school and she had a well-paid job in London.  The outcome was that the husband started to work with a new coach – qualified and accredited – who explored over a number of sessions why the husband was unhappy with his job, and worked with him to find a solution.  Simple – the outcome of a number of coaching sessions helped the husband find another way to communicate with his boss and stay working in a job he loved.

So although we often think that we want ‘new’ and we will work through the change, or someone else wants ‘new’ and we will accept the change; the underlying questions that each coach or mentor asks will truly highlight the reason and information and confirm whether new is needed or not.

© 2016 Barbara J. Cormack.  All Rights Reserved.