Archive for July, 2012

Change is hard. Everyone knows this. While we love the changes, we invariably hate the change. One of a leader’s top skills today is guiding people through change. While there are many steps to this, there is one in particular that can’t be missed. I hate to call it a step as it is more of an anthem, and one that needs to be played over and over again during the change effort. If you can keep this simple phrase on the lips of your people, it will provide a stabilizing affect in the midst of uncertainty.

The simple phrase?

Everything gets hard before it gets easy.

I first got this from the book Switch by the Chip and Dan Heath, which is an excellent manual for navigating change. Change is tough because it takes us out of our usual routines, and forces us to do things differently. This requires extra energy, and often leads to an intial decrease in effectiveness. We are hardwired to seek a state of homeostasis, and when this equillibrium gets upset, we assume something is wrong. After all life should not be hard, or so we tell ourselves.

I recently helped an organization navigate a period of change. I can’t tell you how much this mantra aided my efforts.

Everything gets hard before it gets easy.

It was a simple reminder that the present upheaval of “How we do things around here,” was intentional and this period of increased difficulty actually served a greater purpose. It’s kind of like reminding people, “I know it hurts, because it’s supposed to, but only for a little while.”

Everything gets hard before it gets easy.

If you are in the midst of change and upheaval, remind your people this, and remind them often.

 

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I have a special mentor in my life. He has terminal lung cancer and the doctors say he will not recover. I count my times with him as a blessing as he brings a certain perspective on life that few possess. This week we were talking together about family and the importance of putting family first, regardless how busy life gets. And let’s face it, life can get very busy. When I think of all the deadlines I face, and the length of my to-do list  I can get overwhelmed. But my friend said something that had me thinking for the next few days. He said at some point people have to ask themselves the question, “When is enough, enough?”

It’s not like I haven’t heard the question before but most times the context is money. While I have never felt that my life was driven by money, I do feel a strong pull for purposeful work and impact. For me it’s one of my values and therefore becomes one of my evaluative criteria for how I am doing. My friend was asking me to consider the question not from a money and possessions perspective but from a purpose one.

How much impact is enough? The question has had me thinking deeply over the last few days. While I desire to impact thousands, (many more if I’m honest) but what’s wrong with only impacting one? I think I sometimes sell my self short of the simple satisfaction in helping a single person. In this sense, desiring to have an impact can become it’s own currency. As leaders, many of us are driven by a strong sense of purpose. This is good and comes from a good place. But, as my mentor challenged my thinking this week, make sure you don’t miss out on the little joys while chasing after the bigger ones.

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