Comin’ Up Around the Bend

Jun 22, 2013 No Comments by

sunrise-clipartIt’s a basic tenant of the Change Agent role that once we sign up for the job, we should strive to know more about the future than our stakeholders.

It also makes sense that we should understand the ups and downs we’re asking people to sign up for.

Finally, the role implies that we plan to embrace the change ourselves.

All week I’ve been listening to some great rock and roll music I got for Father’s Day and keeping an ear open for lyrics that hold meaning for those engaged in change. I noticed a pair of songs that highlighted some approaches we can take as Change Agents when we engage those impacted by our work.

In my last post, I reflected on the classic Brice Springsteen tune “Glory Days”.

The story of that song reminded me of how beneficial it can be to help people place a new change into context by looking back, even as we help them look into the future.  Check out that article here…

Today, my playlist and my thoughts have drifted to another classic in the catalog of Creedence Clearwater Revival. (They’re also known by their initials: CCR).  I bumped into a familiar chart buster from the 70’s called “Around the Bend”.

Creedence-Clearwater-RevivalCheck it Out: Here are a few lines that caught my attention:

“There’s a place up ahead and I’m going – just as fast as my feet can fly.”

“Come away, come away if you’re going.

Leave the sinking ship behind.

Come on the rising wind. We’re going up around the bend.”

Later we hear:

“Better get while the getting’s good…”

Here’s what I noticed in this musical gem that might be useful for us as Change Agents:

1. We’ve Found a Better Place: Dan Fogerty definitely plans to go somewhere around the bend, and he isn’t going there alone.  In fact a bunch folks are going there. He describes this place in great positive detail. I get the impression he would take this trip even if he had to do it alone, but he’d sure love to have you join the group and share in the benefits.

Burning-Man2. Our Current Situation Stinks. In fact it’s a sinking ship. I’m not sure what problems they were having there, but I get a sense they might be stuck in the concrete jungle of a city while they yearn to get out into the woods. Maybe they’re having a huge celebration of self-expression like the annual Burning Man gathering in the Nevada desert? Who knows?  

In any case, he’s suggesting there might be serious negative consequences if you stand pat and miss out on the fun. OBTW: there’s also a time limit on this offer, so we’d better “get while the getting’s good”.

3. Let’s Get Excited! Finally, I’m not totally certain of the destination, but holy smokes, he sure sounds pumped up about going. It’s hard to ignore the excitement in his voice as he pulls for us to take this journey. I’m almost ready to grab my hiking boots…

Change Agent Take-Aways: CCR has some good insights for us as Change Agents and I’d summarize three of them as:

–       Show Carrots.

–       Show Sticks.

–       Show Emotion!

carrot-and-stickShow the Carrot: Just like CCR, you should paint a positive picture of where your organization is going.

Do your research to find out the positive benefits of your change.

–  What great things will take place?
–  How will life improve?
–  What measurable improvements will the change bring?
–  What problems or nuisances will go away?

Review this material with the team that’s implementing the change to make sure you are dealing in facts. Be patient and be open to feedback.

Show the Stick: Remind stakeholders of the risk of ignoring the change. (As long as you’re being honest about the risk.)  If your stakeholders really do face a “sinking ship” if they stand still, be straight-up about these facts.

  • What external threat does the change address that could sink our ship if ignored?
  • What internal weakness might be fatal if left unaddressed?
  • What opportunity will we miss out on if we fail to take action?
  • How bad could it get – really?
  • How urgent is it? Is there a time limit on our need to adapt?
  • When do we (and more importantly, I) need to be completely through this transition?

shout about it megaphoneBig-Time Warning: Don’t make stuff up! Don’t needlessly scare people as a tactic to motivate your change. If the sky really isn’t going to fall if they don’t embrace the change, don’t scream and run in circles with your wings flapping – you’ll lose credibility quickly once people discover the truth.

Show Some Emotion! Finally, don’t assume people know the positives attached to your change: Diligently get the word out and do it in a way that demonstrates how compelling you find the case for change.

Build a compelling narrative to describe the up-side. Use active language and consider each personal interaction as an opportunity to share what the change means to you.

Gather a few real stories about these benefits from some real people in your organization.

Finally, avoid over-promising or raving about things you don’t have direct experience with.

CCRThat’s a Wrap: Creedence Clearwater Revival has a few good things to say about change in their song “Up Around the Bend”. I recommend that you do a little research to get your up-side and down-side facts straight, then share them with passion. If you lace up your boots and kick in a few of these suggestions, you could find people following you on the path of adopting your change in no time.

-Steve

Questions for Chatter:

  1. What damage can it cause when Change Agents are overly optimistic about the future?
  2. How can Change Agents respond to the legitimate question of whether it’s possible to talk about what’s around the bend if we haven’t in fact been there?

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Change Agent Skills, Change Communication, Change Execution, Change Leadership, Stakeholder Readiness, Team Dynamics

About the author

I help people and teams succeed with big changes... never a dull moment!
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