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Change Requires First Steps

Updated: Mar 4, 2019

A Coruña - Galicia, Spain - Tower of Hercules

Let's get real, shall we?

Change is not always easy, even for a certified, seasoned change agent like me. And if you can't change yourself, who can you change?

Rebranding my company and redesigning my website, after 17 years of if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it status quo, took me years of casual contemplation. Though recently, the issue had been popping onto my radar more frequently, every time I met a new prospect. I felt embarrassed to send them to my outdated site, so I’d developed a series of punchy 1-pager pdfs I’d attach to a follow-up email and hoped they didn’t click the link on my signature line. I got pretty good at this workaround.

Then one day last June, I took a pause in my regularly scheduled project scrambling and dragged myself to an Arlington County seminar on web branding. There was a low barrier to entry: it was free. Also, I justified: this would be a good networking opportunity.

But I walked out of the workshop, with pages of notes, AWAKENED.

I learned new terms like SEO. My antique site was certainly not search engine optimized, so people were not finding me. Hmm, did I want to be found? And mobile-friendly? I was afraid to see what I looked like on my Samsung.

Denial is the first stage of change – and it’s actually the hardest to recognize because it’s so stealthy. I sometime call it 'just not seeing' because, in this stage, it's easy to ignore the truth.

It may not even be on your radar. Or, if it is, you may find yourself justifying, like I did: my web presence was fine as it was – and anyway I was a face-to-face business so it didn’t much matter – and all the hype about new, simplified tools was just that – hype.

Until I took first steps and got myself across the river into that seminar, I couldn’t see I was IN it.

Hard to believe, right?17 years without a makeover? I’d been to the Peace Corps and back again somewhere in there. My company had changed, and so had I. I’d developed new tools, interests and expertise. But on the outside, what people saw was the same old circa 2001 SeeChange. Besides being out of style, like wearing bell-bottoms in a skinny-jeans era, the site was coded in html and therefore a drag to update. So I never did.

Denial is powerful. The only way out of it is to pay attention to the quiet inkling and then confront yourself with information. That’s what I did that day in the Arlington seminar.

If you are a leader in an organization trying to make a shift – in strategy or technology or culture – even something as seemingly simple as new roles or procedures – it’s up to you to confront your team with information too. Don’t keep your plan a secret – and don’t assume they know.

Once they know YOU will know because the reality starts to sink in that change is coming.

And you will feel it.

When I got home from the seminar that afternoon and reviewed my notes, I got that sinking feeling, brow crumpled: I was going to have to DO something.

Dang-it and Yay! I was out of Denial and into Resistance. I’d made progress.

Quickly, without thinking too hard, while I had that feeling, I shot-off an email to the workshop leader – I knew I would need help on this path, to keep the momentum going, and not slide backwards.

Oh, I knew what lay ahead – Resistance – the juiciest stage by far. We'll plunge into that topic on my next post.

Meanwhile, here’s some homework for you change makers. Take some time away from people to quietly reflect on these three questions:

· What change might you be denying, in your work, life, community, or organization?

· What first steps can you take?

· Who can help give you a nudge?


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