The Essential Factor in Any Kind of Change
Here at Blue Sky, we’re experts in people change.
People have been trying to change forever. They want to change because they want to be better, happier, richer, slimmer, kinder, faster, more successful, get promoted… we all have a list of things that, if given the Genie’s three wishes, we would change about ourselves.
Some change works.
People do get better at their jobs; they do get fitter, happier, become more thoughtful, make better cupcakes. And lots don’t. They say they want change to happen (often repeatedly). They make attempts to do things differently: join a gym, a dating agency, signup for a course, give up chocolate for a week. But after a while the old behaviour creeps back in and no lasting or sustainable change, actually takes place.
Why is that?
Is it because some people have more willpower, more help, more time, more knowledge? Is it because, for some reason, it is easier for them? She doesn’t work? They have the money? They had a great leader?
Yes, it can be all of these things – all of these things and one more.
What’s the key to coping or thriving amongst a changing environment?: People who successfully change are agile learners.
This means that they have the ability and willingness to learn from experience and subsequently apply that learning elsewhere.
Successful change requires an understanding of the actual change required – an understanding of what drives our behaviour in the first place, what keeps us repeating the pattern, as well as a robust process for change (all of which we explain further on).
But before all that you have to be open to learning in all ways – not just the traditional ‘teacher’ based learning methodologies. And when we say open, we mean really open to learning, with the humility and determination to see it through. If all these things are in place, then you can become an agile learner and, all of a sudden, change becomes a whole lot easier.
Imagine for a minute you are discussing politics with a friend. They voice a different opinion to yours on a topic of national importance.
What do you do? Well, most people will sit and appear to listen whilst at the same time constructing their response ready for when the friend stops talking. They’re not reacting to change or adapting their opinions to reply. The response is invariably in some way or other an attempt to make your friend ‘see sense’ and see it your way.
A person with high learning agility will respond differently.
As their friend is talking, they will genuinely listen; they won’t be running their own dialogue in their head. They will be given over completely to listening and thinking about what is being said.
Having done this, they will ask genuine questions in order to understand more fully this point of view. It may sound something like this: ‘Blimey! That’s a completely different view from the one I held when we started this conversation… please tell me more, what makes you believe xx? Where did you learn about that?’
The reason for this is that an agile learner sees difference as an opportunity to learn, as opposed to a threat to their own identity. They love talking to people who know more about something than them or just know different things; they see it as an opportunity to learn and to become better and more knowledgeable themselves. It does not mean they have to change their opinion when they hear a different way of thinking, but it means they have no concerns in doing so because they believe wholly that people are all just works in progress and that learning is the fuel that keeps us growing and progressing. The people who are scared to change their mind are the people that will fail to change anything.
Let’s do a comparison for a moment
On the one hand, there’s the leader who listens to no one (although often pretends to), dictates the way it is to be done and refuses to see the signs as things unravel.
Against them, we have a leader who seeks out people that can add value to their problem, hears their real thoughts and experience (because they feel safe in giving it) and then makes a considered decision.
It is no surprise that the number one factor senior leadership recruiters are now looking for in candidates is the humility to admit they don’t know everything and their ability to learn quickly from people and situations.
Want to get better at change?
Just being conscious of how you react in situations where you could be more open to learning will help. Meetings, brainstorms, training sessions, articles, books, coaching sessions, your response to 360 feedback, conversations with your spouse: How open are you? How much are you growing in each and every situation? Are you showing up with what Carol Dweck refers to as a ‘fixed mindset’ or do you have a ‘growth mindset?’ One that recognises there is always more to learn.