It is great to be supported by the people around you. It feels good to be acknowledged. It’s super to have others tell you that you are right.
When the going gets though, having a tight-knit circle of friends and supporters makes it seem a little easier. But if those are the only people you are talking with as you define, plan, and carry out your change, you are making a big mistake!
One of the realities of how we as human beings approach change is that we have a tendency to “play to our strengths.” One person may conceive of and shape the change incessantly for months on end. Another may plan it out to the most minute detail. Someone else may take the “Fire, Ready, Aim” approach.
One risk of limiting those who advise us to those who think like us and support us without question is that sometimes playing to our strength may be a mistake. Those of us who are creative are often much better at starting things than at bringing them to a successful conclusion. All the planning in the world won’t move you forward; nor is it ever possible to execute a major change “according to plan.” (As the old saying goes, People plan, and the gods laugh.) Nor is jumping into action too quickly the best idea.
Another risk that comes from surrounding yourself with nodding heads is that you will end up with a limited perspective on the circumstances driving the change, as well as the approach to addressing those circumstances. Abraham Maslow put it this way. “If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”
When facing a major change, you need more than a hammer in your toolbox. You need counsel from people who see things through a different lens. You need to hear from others who have faced similar situations. You need to listen to those who have attempted this change journey before. Especially listen to those who have failed. Those who were successful may or may not know what contributed to their success; those who failed will have a clear grasp of what went wrong.
Value the perspective of those who are optimistic about your chances of success; they will give you encouragement along the way. Also value those who are pessimistic; they may be pointing out the potholes that you will want to avoid (or to be prepared to address) along the way. Appreciate those who are focused; they can help keep you from being distracted and moving off-course. Those who are proactive may compel you forward; their counterparts may be able to keep you from moving too quickly. Listen to people who can tell you what is just noise, and what is critically important for you to address.
It may only take adding one or two people to your circle to significantly broaden the voices you hear. But, they need to be people whom you trust, people whose thinking can cause you to change your mind, to think and/or act differently.
It may also require that you challenge those who have traditionally supported you, helping them understand that you need both their support and their challenges as well.
In all of your conversations, be clear as to who is making the decisions. Listen with an open mind. Don’t shoot the messengers. Finally, if you are the decision-maker, set the expectation that you want total candor, and that you will carefully weigh the counsel you are receiving. And, be clear that once you have made the decision, you expect their unwavering support.
What has been your experience when seeking counsel about change?