Honestly, recent national events have put me completely on edge. What we see in the news just doesn’t make sense — except that it is the logical conclusion of everything that has come before.
Here’s what makes sense: If there were fewer guns throughout the U.S., there would also be fewer suicides by gun, fewer accidents by gun, and fewer murders by gun.
And it makes sense that if police had a different mission and were selected, trained, and managed differently, there could be less police violence against Black and brown people.
It also makes sense that with slightly higher taxes on people who have tremendous amounts of money, and revised rules for corporations that pay no taxes, both schools and bridges could be improved. Families with fewer resources could be better supported and fed so that future generations could have better lives without diminishing the quality of life for others.
You might be thinking, okay, that’s all true, but these big societal problems are so intractable, and people’s views are so entrenched that we’re not willing to do the work to change, because change requires new, experimental approaches to hearts and minds and structures.
You Can Change Your World
I might respond with the famous Margaret Mead quote: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Even when we feel powerless ourselves, there may be ways we can gather together to strengthen each other and find the best next step. Think about how this could also be true in environments where we might have slightly more control or influence, like our workplaces, where things often go wrong.
For example, it makes sense that customer service reps should have information about new developments that affect customers so they’re prepared when customers ask for help solving problems. And that there should be a post-sale follow-up process after significant deals to make sure customers are satisfied.
It also makes sense that the leadership team needs to be in agreement about what they mean when they refer to “growth” or “business models” so that their decisions and directions are easily explained to the people responsible for implementation.
Ask Your People About Their Needs
Specifically now, it makes sense that if employees don’t feel comfortable about returning to the office, managers should be finding out why, and asking what would help them be more comfortable, rather than commanding them to return. This is true even when the business desperately needs the employees to come back. People work better when they are comfortable than when they’re frightened about their health or resentful that their leadership doesn’t care about them.
And yet the opposite is happening every day, in many kinds of businesses.
Very often, it’s because underlying mindsets and structures are present that hold ineffective behaviors in place.
Some of the damaging opinions that leaders may hold and even express include: Subordinates should be mind-readers; we shouldn’t have to deal with or accommodate people who aren’t like us; we should only give out information on a need-to-know basis; and people need to solve their own conflicts and problems rather than trying to dump them on us.
Just Because Change Hasn’t Begun Yet Doesn’t Mean It Won’t
It’s natural for people — even leaders — to resist change. It doesn’t mean that change is impossible, just that it’s not happening yet.
Say you’d like to see change wherever you are — sensible change that you believe could conserve resources, enhance growth, retain staff, generate better results, and generally be better for stakeholders. How could you start moving toward it? What could you ask for, and who could you talk to? What experiments could you run that might persuade others of your point of view? Could you get any traction on your own, or would you have to encourage others to act with you?
Things Can Always Get Better
It’s almost always worth thinking about how things could be better, and then what steps we could take to make them so. Whether we’re talking about the company we run or work for or the society we live in, we’re in a fraught time, perhaps at an inflection point, when health, safety, and future well-being could shift in many different ways.
That could mean danger and disruption, at least temporarily. But it could also create the opportunity to look for hope and potential, and then take steps to achieve them.
What do you think? Can you see ways that you could get more or differently involved to make the kind of change you’d like to see?
For more than 25 years as president of Liz Kislik Associates, a nationally acclaimed management consultancy, Liz Kislik has focused on advancing business results for her clients, such as American Express, Orvis, The Girl Scouts, Guthy-Renker, Staples, and Highlights for Children.
In her practice, Liz assesses and facilitates teams and… View full profile ›