Leading change in the workplace, even pursuing personal change can often seem futile. But why is it that the concept of a ‘new years resolution’ is not uncommon during this time of year? Each January, this tradition seems to be a natural reflex for people to spark change and drive success.
In most work environments change isn’t seen as tradition; it tends to invoke anguish and for some, fear. What if this could change? What if we could channel this reflective, motivated mindset and apply it to our work? And even better, focus on it for longer than a few weeks?
I have a view about why change can be seen as tradition in one context and challenge in another.
Firstly, let’s take Stephen Covey’s first principle – Be Proactive. It’s important to acknowledge that we have a choice; this may be more obvious in our personal lives than at work. We can either strap ourselves in for another year and do more of what we already do – i.e. think and build the strategy, communicate the strategy, measure the strategy, adjust the strategy, have meetings about the strategy, promote, encourage, counsel, repeat. The same is true for our personal lives, plan, do – or not, and so on. Or we could deal with this repetitive habit and enter 2019 choosing to set an ‘at work new years resolution.’
As your staff make their way into the office this New Year, there are three things leaders can focus on to provide momentum and drive change.
SPACE – Create the Space to Reflect and Consider
If coping with the curve balls of change is expected in your workplace, it’s prudent to acknowledge that ‘People don’t resist change, they resist being changed’ (Peter Senge) As the author of the Fifth Discipline implies – people do have the capacity to change methods and styles. The important ingredient or element is finding the inspiration or the necessary nudge to commit.
Inspiration needs space for creativity and nudges need a catalyst.
Take a moment to think about the nature/nurture philosophy. We have heard this time, and time again, but how much attention do we pay to – ‘we are a product of our environment’? Having the physical space to think about this may create the nudge needed for change, both professionally and personally.
Allowing ourselves the time and space to reflect on our work environment can shed light on how it influences our approach, effectiveness or struggle towards change. Additionally, it will give us a hint and a nudge about possible options.
Sitting with the question, “what’s going on in my environment and what am I doing to foster this?” will give us clues. Ask yourself, what am I busy doing? Getting busy and being busy can move us away from personal leadership and continuous improvement. Being busy feels useful and often is dealing with what is immediately in front of you, but is not necessarily the best path toward larger goals.
MOTIVATION – Notice What Gives you a Feeling of Reward
Secondly, we need to consider is it worth the effort? If it means the new approach will give us more energy, time and meaningful experiences this will drive you and your team to pursue options and targets. If it’s not worth the effort, motivation will be compromised. In a work context we may think about where our motivation stems from, are we doing it for others, for the team, community or culture?
Motivation needs a source of energy and is cultivated by one’s own independent thought and action rather than by being told. Autonomy is necessary to create the freedom and permission to pursue what feels good for each individual at work.
PERSONALISATION – Make it Yours
The change also needs to be personal, which of course, is obvious. If you don’t own it, then you won’t find the motivation and, in turn, risk passive resistance creeping in. Personalisation at work can be difficult. We are often measured around corporate goals, or, we tend to think about what the organisation wants. Personalise this, think about the similarities and how it may align with your own needs.
Find your personal drivers at work; notice what is important to you and align it with the success measures of the organisation or project. Work for them, and work for yourself. What would you love to do and have by way of contribution at work? And – how will you know when you’ve achieved it?
Space, motivation and personalisation are interwoven. It could be that your organisation does not have enough of these. As leaders we are able to do something about it. Focus on the conditions you create for yourself and for others, to what extent are you creating an atmosphere that encourages collaboration and creativity? The New Year is a good time to ask questions, listen, learn, delve deeper and adapt. Why is this year going to be different for you, your team or your organisation?