It is one of those times… a lot of clients are managing change right now. Whether it is a family system that simply cannot continue as it has, a company reducing its workforce or a team culture evolving, change is hard. In the end, change is never just about the other people involved. If you are the change agent, you will be changed. If you want to change a whole organization, then it all starts with you and your leadership team. 

Today I want to share three ways we embody change.

How you speak is key. Change agents often over index on logic, making the mistake of trying too hard to explain and justify the situation. Focus rather on conveying a felt sense. You want your people to feel two things: (1) to feel bad about the old state that we’re moving away from and (2) to feel good about the new state we are moving into. 

The way to do that is to look inside. Like an artist or a poet. Clear your head of day-to-day concern and prepare your body to perceive at a feeling level. Feel into the old state. No doubt you have proud feelings about the good things in the old state. For now, let those flow on by. Make notes of words that precisely describe its dysfunction, unsustainability or limitation. Review each of those words and, wherever possible, find words that invoke a deeper feeling. For example, your first word may be “inefficient” whereas a deeper feeling word may be “sloppy” or “heavy”. Words that invoke not just concepts but a picture in your mind’s eye or a feeling in the body.     

Take even more time to feel into the positive, compelling future you are creating. Let any nervous doubts flow on by. Make notes that describe the new state. Feeling, sensual words or metaphors that invoke the precise felt sense you want. Practice speaking with a mirror and a colleague who can offer feedback to help you invoke the feeling of these two things–the old and the new–even more potently.

The skill I admire most in the greatest creators I have worked with is this: converting the feeling of a vision into numbers. Without this, the felt sense leaves people without ground. Some may feel excited, others skeptical or lost. Either way, the change process soon aborts. 

People think vision is where innovation originates. I almost always find that the most important innovations happen in the way we measure success. If your vision is new, then old ways of measuring are unlikely to be effective. You probably have a numbers person on your team or in your network who loves to work with you on this stuff. If you envision an efficient well-oiled machine, for example, there will be a key ratio somewhere that measures results over effort in some way. Even though the Street or VCs require their standard measures, you want to go upstream of those. Define measures your people can control, where they can see the needle moving quickly and make them feel proud. Present a roadmap of the whole company that converts into measurable success for each individual contributor. 

The most important part of planning any change initiative is to plan the first few wins. Presenting the vision and doing the deeds that change the environment are actually the easy part. It is that lull after the flurry of activity which makes or breaks the change. That is the moment where your people most need to see how the change is happening. It is that first celebration or two when we all get together and say, “We wanted this to happen, now here is a result that shows it is happening.” Plan for that. Deliver that. And you will be successfully embodying the change you want to see.       

Until next time,

David Lesser
Founder & CEO