One of the biggest lies we believe is that people don’t change. It’s right up there with the lie that “if it is going to be, it is up to me.”
People do change, they change all the time. Yet, change is one of the most difficult things people face. Most people do not enjoy the process of change. Changing often requires going through something difficult — change can require pain and suffering.
If you’ve been led well, you’ve benefited from someone who believes deeply in change. Leaders take people from where they are to where they need to go. Growth is change. Development is change. Change is constant. Our job as leaders is to go and do what has been done for us by helping others change.
Over the span of my thirty year career as a business leader, I’ve been charged with leading 1,000’s of people and saw a great deal of change. I’ve had the joy of assisting and witnessing change happen in 100’s of people. Here are some highlights of those changes —
- From unsure intern to confident department head.
- From overwhelmed to deploying gifts with confidence.
- From independent to interdependent.
- From constant worry to daring assurance.
- From a scarcity mindset to sharing with others abundantly.
- From lacking a personal ‘why’ at work to helping others discover theirs.
- From “if it is to be, it is up to me - to trusting teammates.
- From manipulating truth to standing up for truth.
- From negative detractor to recruiter of others to join the team.
- From working for self to serving the team.
- From working for money to working for the benefit of others.
- From keeping faith and work separate to living one joyfully integrated life.
What about you? Surely you have seen amazing change in those you lead and love. And, no doubt, as a leader you can think of several people you care about now who need to make significant changes in order to flourish more in life and work — to go from where they are to where they need to be.
The Obstacles To Change
To best determine how to help people change we need to look at what obstacles are holding them back. In his book Lead Like Jesus, Ken Blanchard outlines seven obstacles to change and gives examples of and application for how to overcome each obstacle.
1. People feel awkward.
2. People feel alone.
3. People focus on what they have to give up.
4. People can handle only so much change. Change is all around us all the time.
5. People worry about resources.
6. People are at different levels of readiness.
7. People tend to revert to old behaviors when the pressure to change is removed.
These obstacles have a lot in common — fear and worry. Change that we choose almost always involves a reordering of our fears. Consider the case study all of us lived over the last few years with the Coronavirus and the covid vaccines. Most people needed to know others were getting a vaccine before taking one first — the awkwardness, loneliness, what they might give up (their life), associated change (socially and politically) resource concerns, and readiness were all part of people deciding to take a vaccine or not.
All seven of these obstacles to getting the covid vaccine were overcome by most people — roughly 70% percent of the US — especially when the fear of death or long term health concerns were considered. The alternative change — death or illness — for most people was worse. In fact, 600 times more covid vaccines were given than deaths from covid and 6 times more covid vaccines have been given than covid cases reported. Most people did what they believed was best for their lives and the lives of the people they loved.
When we place fear in its proper place, solutions overcome obstacles. “Do not fear” is a constant refrain in the Bible. Jesus teaches us not to fear even a physical death. And, at the same time, we are told that fear is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). Happy is everyone who fears the Lord – who walks in His ways (Psalm 1:21). There is a kind of fear that is pure and clean. This is a fear that trusts in the Lord. Fear of the Lord — which is awe and reverence for God’s holiness, power, judgment, sovereignty, grace, mercy, and love — is the fear that drives out all other fear. Trusting God fully allows us not to fear and worry about our temporary circumstances on this earth — not even loss of property, wealth, or even those who can kill our earthly bodies (Luke 12:4). God’s perfect love overcomes these fears.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” – 1 John 4:18
The Solution — Focus On The End
We can rely on Ken Blanchard for part of the solution too. The One Minute Manager outlines how to lead change in day to day moments — one minute at a time — giving three secrets for how to most effectively help people change. What I like most about the advice of the book is that it focuses on the person, not the task or change the person needs to make. To this end, Ken says, "People who feel good about themselves produce good results.” It always starts with the person, and perhaps the most important advice in the book is Secret Number 2: “One Minute Praising — Help People to Reach Their Full Potential. Catch Them Doing Something Right.”
People last forever and that makes them ends, not means. Most goals, initiatives, companies and especially money are temporary means. As leaders, when we focus on who the person can be — will be — the coaching to change is received well and the person is motivated to become the best version of themselves.
The Bible teaches that God sees His children how we will one day be. The Apostle Paul was perfectly inspired by The Holy Spirit to write this incredible truth.
"For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will — to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” - Ephesians 1:4-6
Jesus Is The Creator of Life and Author of Change
All change is ultimately spiritual. Jesus made all things (John 1:3) and all things are for His purpose (Romans 11:36). Jesus is also the One who changes and makes us new as we trust in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17).
We can help people the most with their presenting needs — their specific need for change — when we know the ultimate aim of their life. I am convinced through my leadership experience that one reason people do not change is because they have tried too many things and none of them led to deeper purpose, meaning, or significance; so they quit and look to the next temporary fix. Paul David Tripp says it this way, “When we ask the present to give us what only eternity can give, we end up driven, frustrated, discouraged, and ultimately hopeless.” Changing things that lead to temporary results is like rearranging chairs on a sinking ship.
When we start to see things the way God sees them, we see that the most important change for each person is not about the task, the company, or the cash. Importance and priority must be placed on what lasts. God’s word though the Apostle Paul provides guidance in this area too.
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” - 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
Leaders Help People Know Jesus
The world — especially the business word — tells us life is about performance. Followers of The Way of Jesus know this is at best a partial truth that leaves out the full truth. A business does run on performance, and so do all but one of the world's religions. God gave His only Son so that we might believe in Him, that we might never die, but live forever (John 3:16).
As leaders when we take the long view — the eternal view — we help those we serve understand how to change for the short term in a way that leads them to life everlasting. We help them change in important areas that lead to their flourishing. We help them walk in the works God prepared for them (Ephesians 2:10) in ways that help them know God — the One who made them and loves them perfectly.
Join us this week as we discuss specific scenarios, the obstacles, and how to help people change!