Make Change a “Want To” Instead of the Typical “Must Do”

Success Strategy #1 for Transformational Change Leaders

by Robert S. Tipton

“Teaching people to build boats by showing them plans and giving them tools and materials like wood, glue, and nails creates limited returns. Instead — to deliver outstanding results in boat building — instill within them a love for the sea.”

Excerpted from my book JUMP! – Get Unstuck and adapted from a saying by the French writer (The Little Prince) Antoine de Saint-Exupery

A quick Google search of “Transformational Change Degree” resulted in seven (7) hits (and none related to a university curriculum), while a search for “Change Management Degree” resulted in more than 2,000,000 hits.

In digging a little deeper, it became clear to me that there are literally thousands of institutions of higher education in the world that offer some type of “change management” degree program and seemingly zero (according to Google) that offer something related to a degree in transformational change.

This is a problem. A GIANT problem.

Why? It’s simple, and here are a couple of questions that get to the heart of it:

  1. Would you agree that most people are programmed to believe that change is a difficult, ugly, pain-filled process? Yes?
  2. And would you agree that as result of #1 we’ve created processes (and university degree programs) designed to “tightly and carefully” manage the change process to ensure “success”? Yes again?

The whole premise behind A and B above is flawed in my mind.

This is because the techniques, processes, methods and tools used in classic “change management” programs are rooted in fear, threats, coercion, and other low-energy approaches to MAKE people change.

Change become an “or else” activity, and that’s why it: a) rarely creates transformational outcomes, and b) when change does happen, it’s typically VERY painful and creates significant employee disengagement (for more, see my post on “Micromanagers Anonymous“).

Taking all of these factors into consideration, classic change management processes seem to be doomed from the start.

Transform Change from “Have To” to “Want To”

Now — there is a different approach. A radically different approach – and it’s all about getting our attitudes renewed, and transforming change into a “want to” activity instead of a “have to” thing. When this happens, we don’t have to manage the change carefully – instead, change becomes like a forest fire. It rages! It consumes! It transforms!

And this is exactly what terrifies so many managers out there. They don’t WANT change to be organic, to be positive, to be a living, growing thing. They want to make sure ONLY the changes they can control are the ones that get implemented, and as a result, the world leaves them farther behind each day.

These managers inevitably wonder why: a) competitors come out of nowhere and start kicking their rear-ends, 2) their products or services quickly become commoditized, or 3) their ability to operate their businesses effectively starts to deteriorate dramatically.

Here’s the mantra: Fear-based managers manage change as a fear-based endeavor, and fear is a LOUSY motivator.

“Change Is Hard! … (Until It Isn’t)”

Robert S. Tipton, Transformational Change Keynote Speaker
Over the course of the past year or so, I’ve been presenting a keynote speech I call: Change is Hard! … Until It Isn’t. The title is designed to get your attention – in a “I was expecting lemonade, but I got milk instead” kind of way.

And I’ve found the title works that way…

When I make the statement “change is hard…”, nearly everyone agrees unconditionally with that part. But when I get to the “until it isn’t” part, I get strange, quizzical looks.

Why the questioning expressions?

Because I believe most people approach change using an attitude that says “Change is ALWAYS hard!” Okay – I know it sounds like a cliché, but if we look for change to be hard – it will. It’s all about our attitude.

Building on the quote at the start of this post, do you approach change by giving people the plans, the materials, the directions and then direct them to, “Go. Do the change.” Or, instead, do you instill within them a “love for the change” and ask them to “Go! Create the change.”?

Attitude… It’s a small word with HUGE implications related not only to the success of a change effort, but also the “pain” associated with it. Which attitude do you bring as a leader? Change as a “have to” activity? Or change as a “want to” activity?

To me it’s simple. Choose the attitude that delivers the best results . “Want to” wins EVERY time in my book.

For More On Transformational Change Leadership,
Please Check Out These Other Posts from Our Blog:

9 Stages of Transformational Change
5 Essential Behaviors of Transformational Change Leaders
7 Core Beliefs of Transformational Change Leaders


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