On a recent project in Asia, I encountered a resistant to change that was on a whole new level. Cultural change, not a change in the actual fabric of their culture, but a change in behavior that was contrary to their cultural norms. The location was Singapore and the delegates all Asian. My first visit to that side of the world and I was intrigued by the respect they have, the honor they possess and their complete lack of any interest in speaking in front of the workshop. It goes against their culture. They are expected to sit and learn. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, I sometimes wish my audiences of the western culture would adopt that norm.
So this was a change for them. I was actually going to force them, against their will and cultural intuition, to stand and speak … to share their expertise … to put themselves out there and talk in front of their peers. Sure I have seen much the same reluctance all over the world, but I learned from these fine folks, the best way to deal with this type of change.
Deal with it.
Don’t ignore it
It’s not going to go away.
This got me to thinking about change and the lessons I have learned about change over the years.
Most importantly, there is only one person who is NOT reluctant to change. That would be a baby with a dirty diaper. Imagine the discomfort, imagine it at such a high level that change is welcomed. I would hope that in business we would not have to get to such a high level of discomfort before we change. It’s actually some sort of measure of success. If you can embrace change before things get so crappy that you can’t bear it, perhaps you have changed ahead of the curve and may be able to develop, improve or enhance your business when otherwise you may have waited too long.
Another lesson about change, there are three things required to facilitate effective change.
A dissatisfaction with the current situation
A clear vision of how things could be
Agreed upon first steps
And it’s not just the “steps” that need to be “agreed upon”. Everything must be agreed upon. Strength in numbers, we don’t need naysayers or saboteurs. Without these three, any change is doomed to failure.
So back in Singapore, as I learned of this difficult change in behavior, change in cultural norms, that I was hoping to instill in my audiences, I put these three into play. I assured my audience that we would have much more fun if we all participated, that by having all of us talk and not just me, we would have a much better time together and who wants to listen to boring me talk all day. I assured them that they could not only do this, speak in front of a group of 25 peers, but that this would prove beneficial for them as they will be called to perform this task as their career advanced. And finally, I showed them how to do it, by doing it myself. And then we went around the room, terrified indeed, but they did it. And we all applauded.