Your credit union’s relationship with change influences its relationship with success.
That statement should give you pause. Your credit union faces unrelenting competition for the hearts and minds of members and associates. If you cannot win at change, you can’t remain relevant. If you are not relevant, you will not survive.
Why We Lose and How We Win
Much of our thinking about how to deal with change in organizations is rooted in a 25-year-old perspective that says, “Change is coming. Get ready for it.”
Make no mistake. You still must be ready to adapt to change that appears out of nowhere. The challenge is that the speed and lack of predictability at which change comes at us makes planning for the future difficult.
Being better at adapting to change keeps us playing from behind. We end up chasing change, and that creates opportunities for limited success.
Good organizations change when they need to. The best organizations change when they choose to. The difference in winning and losing with change is the ability to choose quicker and more often.
The Difference between Chasing and Choosing
Organizations that chase change:
- Are reactive. Change is something done to them.
- Tend to be rushed into change, and that leads to haphazard results.
- Resistance focuses on why we shouldn’t or can’t change.
Choosing change means that you are:
- You change to create an advantage
- Strategic and thoughtful. Your efforts are well-planned and understood in the context of your purpose, vision, and values.
- Using resistance to understand how to make the change better rather than debating why you are pursuing it.
Most important, choosing—rather than chasing—change reduces fear and uncertainty.
Who’s Afraid of Change?
Perhaps you have heard this one: “The only person who doesn’t fear change is a wet baby.”
The truth is that babies do not really crave change. Children begin developing their understanding of cause and effect as early as six months. The early days of waking you up in the middle of the night aren’t about change. They are about discomfort and an inability to do anything about it.
The desire to reduce discomfort never goes away as we get older. We simply learn to weigh the discomfort of staying the same against the discomfort of changing. In other words, we make choices.
Contrary to popular belief, we don’t have an inherent fear of change. In fact, we make changes all the time when the payoff is viewed as worth it. Choosing change creates more control over the situation, and that reduces the resistance and reluctance we experience.
How to Choose Change
Choosing change involves three steps:
- The recognition
- The choice
- The work
The work of change is similar regardless of if you are chasing or choosing change. It will feel different because it will be strategic and thoughtful not rushed.
The power comes from being intentional about the first two steps.
- The recognition: The goal at this step is to eliminate or minimize the surprise of change. Set aside regular time for you and your team to “scout the future.”
The wagon trains headed westward across the United States after the Civil War employed a special group called the Scouts. Every day these individuals rode out over the horizon to find the best route to their destination. More important, they were constantly on the lookout for water (opportunity) and hostiles (threats). We have worked with some clients to establish special “Scout Teams.” Others have incorporated the notion of scouts into the work of each department or team. Either way, look for ways to identify risks and rewards quicker.
- The choice: The not-so-subtle meaning of the “Change is coming” message is that we must adapt. To borrow the line from the Borg invaders of “Star Trek Next Generation,” – “Resistance is futile.”
That is true for some change, but not all. There are changes that you should pursue without waiting. There are others that require a wait-and-see response. Finally, there are changes that you should ignore or even flee because they don’t serve your purpose, vision, and values.
Warren Buffet said that the difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say No to almost everything. While Buffet’s advice was originally intended as career guidance, the message is equally relevant for organizations and teams choosing change.
Three Take Aways
Like the wet baby crying, extreme discomfort is a great motivator for change. That isn’t you or your credit union. The most difficult change to make is the one you undertake when things are going well.
That, however, is the very essence of choosing change. Here are three actions you can take to help your team develop the habit.
- Go quick and small not reckless: Look for quick wins that can be easily implemented to demonstrate that you have the capacity and capability to be proactive about change.
- Go often: Change is a habit that is strengthened through repetition. Look for change on a regular cadence. Reinforce change ideas that others surface. Action creates energy that becomes self-reinforcing.
- Go first: This has two applications: Leaders lead from the front, and act on faith. Leading from the front is obvious. Your team will watch to see if you are choosing or chasing change. Acting on faith requires that you consciously leave the comfort of where you are to pursue a result that is not guaranteed. That is risky and scary.
My wife and I decided to move from the dream home that we built and lived in for 24 years. We purchased, gutted, and completely renovated a 50-year-old house. It took seven months of our life, and there were days that we questioned the change we were making.
We chose to change because we scouted the future to see that our New Next would be a slightly smaller single-story home with no pool. We did not know how much we would enjoy our new neighbors. We could not imagine what it would be like not to worry about a pool. We also learned that no amount of watching home improvement shows fully prepares you for the challenges. We had to go first to realize the benefit and difficulties of our change.
It will be the same for you and your credit union. You must go first—Recognize, Choose, Work.
Isn’t it time you stopped chasing and losing at change?