Change isn’t an iPhone app

I was in a meeting the other day, and someone threw out the phrase “change management” as if it were an app you could download onto your smart phone and instantly, magically start changing.

ChangeI thought about this later and wondered what it might be like if you could walk into a convenience store and buy a six-pack of teamwork or a bag of enlightened leadership. “Attention K-Mart shoppers: Over on Aisle 3, we’re having a blue-light special on employee engagement. Buy two, get one free!”

You may laugh, but every time I log onto LinkedIn, I’m confronted with dozens of articles about management and leadership. I read blogs about it, I get e-mails and tweets about it. All neatly packaged into “7 things every leader needs to know,” “5 ways to build effective teams” or “10 tips for better meetings.” If we just read enough of these articles, we’ll all become empowered, engaged and enlightened, right?

Ah, I wish it were so. Change is difficult, and it’s not easily distilled into a few glib tips. A post by Larry Winget last week called “The 5 Things You MUST Do To Create Positive Change In Your Life” said it well: “No change is going to happen without work and action. There’s no way around it, so roll up your sleeves, get off your butt and do the work.”

The other point that Winget makes is that you must be committed to change, and you need to know (deep down inside) why you want that change. Nowhere is this more evident than in changing personal habits.

I am on an exercise kick these days, but it hasn’t been easy. My goal is to “do something” every day. That something can take the form of a walk or a spin on the NordicTrack. So far, I’ve been pretty good about it, but I admit there are days when I lack the motivation to do anything but sit in front of my computer.

Think about the cottage industry that has grown up (okay, it’s a huge industry now) to persuade and help us lose weight and exercise. These are both things that we know we should do, so why is it so hard to actually do them?

Perhaps we don’t have the discipline, or perhaps as Winget says, we’re not changing for the right reasons. Guilting yourself into a change isn’t the right reason, nor is doing it for someone else (even if it is a loved one). Until you come to terms with why you want to change and are fully committed to it, it’s just not going to happen.

It also helps to have people in your life supporting you and cheering you on. It could be a weight-loss program or an exercise club, or it could be family members, friends or coworkers whom you’ve asked to help you.

When you have setbacks, Winget says, pick yourself up and start again. “Success is about moving past failure. Don’t cry, don’t whine, don’t get stuck. Just play through the pain and keep going no matter what. No excuses are acceptable.”

Finally, he says, “When you get to where you want to be, celebrate. That’s the pay off. Celebrate your victory, set a new target and get back to work.”

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