This summer, like millions of Americans, I tuned in to reality TV shows. I cursed myself as I did it…knowing, in the end, it would feel like a waste of time. I wondered what draws me in again and again. Sometimes, it resembled the worst of rubber-necking. Despite myself, I slowed down to stare. It seemed harmless at the time. Yet, I also know if I don’t pay attention to the road, I risk causing another accident. Could Reality TV be dangerous in the same way?
I discovered my answer while watching “Losing it with Jillian.” Surprising, since it was a typical self-help reality show—an average American sets a goal—in this case, weight loss. But this time, I noticed I was getting really angry. Initially, it was because Jillian threw out all the traditional fry bread at an Apache welcoming ceremony…because it was unhealthy. I was hooked, because I knew that kind of disregard of a group’s values and culture was a lousy way to support change. Surely, this would be the time that Jillian failed – even though I knew the coach never fail on these shows. Nonetheless I watched in perverse anticipation. I won’t bore you with the details, because it really is the same every week. The hero sees the error of her ways, does everything the wise (although sometimes aggressive) coach tells her to do, and miraculously she reaches her goal…and lives happily ever after.
That is when I realized the danger. Think about it, is that how changes happens in your life? Someone tells you the right way to do it and it is all smooth sailing for the rest of your life. (After only 60 minutes work – ok, maybe 30 days at most.) In my work as a consultant, I see that personal and organizational change happens slowly, over time, with a lot of hard work, and many steps backward, before genuinely making progress.
Why is Reality TV dangerous? Because it teaches us that change happens quickly. In real life (not TV life) – a successful change requires a lot of awareness, an ongoing support network, and, regular hard work—sometimes grueling, sometimes boring, sometimes satisfying.
I believe that before you even start a change process, it is important to think about how you can pave the way:
Patience and acceptance are needed for every change. If it were easy, you would have done it a long time ago.
Awareness of the potential obstacles, for yourself and your organization, will help you be prepared for what comes along.
Values can help you to stay on course, despite the distractions (and the accidents at the side of the road :-).
Enthusiasm – face it, at this point in your life, if you aren’t excited about what the change can do for you. There is no amount of “shoulds” that will get you to the finish line.
Then, think about who can join you on this road to change. A coach and companion can help get you through the challenges, and the boring parts, to the satisfying long term change – where a new behavior becomes like second nature. For fear of mixing metaphors, I really like how Jim
Collins describes the value of discipline in Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't. He imagines the tremendous collective effort required to build momentum from a huge and heavy flywheel that starts at a standstill. At the beginning it only inches forward. It takes sustained force to turn one entire rotation, and then you have to keep pushing (hard and consistently) to get two rotations, then three. It could be a dozen rounds, or maybe a hundred before you reach the breakthrough point, and the weight of the flywheel works in your favor. Without any additional exertion on your part, it continues to spin.
As a consultant, I realize that I cannot be the muscle that pushes the flywheel for you. But I can help you make sure that all the pieces are working, and even provide the grease to make it a little easier. And to return to my original metaphor, a committed and supportive companion can help you pave the way, and provide the moral support to help you stick with it over the long haul –helping you gain a second wind to keep you going through the difficult terrain. A companion, free of her own agenda, can help you look down the road, and ask the questions to make sure you know where you are going. And someone with expertise can help you overcome the obstacles along the way, maybe even identify some alternative routes, and of course, remind you to keep your eyes on the road :-).
Perhaps most importantly, a coach will remind you to celebrate when you arrive. After you find the support and discipline to go down the long road of change, you may have forgotten to see what you’ve accomplished. It probably won’t be glamorized by a make-up and TV crew. Because, the process of real change doesn’t make great TV. The goal for real change is for the new behavior to have a momentum of its own…and that takes time.
Mary believes that running a successful nonprofit organization is not a sprint – it is a marathon. She sees nonprofit leaders work hard at their jobs. They enjoy it most of the time. Sometimes, though, they hit a wall and don't know how they are going to keep going. She delights in supporting them on their journey, by bringing them resources, new perspectives, and effective strategies. She uses her values of community, service, and play to guide her work with nonprofits to make the joyful, sustainable changes they need to, to reach their goals. http://www.secondwindconsulting.net
Speed of Change