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Is Change In Your Future?

The question posed in the title may seem a bit naïve as you may say, and accurately so, isn’t change always in our future? The easy answer is yes. Most people will experience change of some velocity very soon or in the near future. The question though is how will you respond to change? Will you embrace it, be passive or resist it?

For some, change is a dirty, four-letter word! For others, change is normal as long as it not too disruptive or happens too often. Then there are those that if change isn’t happening often enough they will find a way to break something so it has to be changed! And, finally for others, change is a “Comme Si, Comme Ça” affair. That means that there will be situations where you radically embrace change and still others where you dig your heels in and refuse to budge. The point is that how we embrace change has a wide spectrum of possibilities, just as there are people!

Let’s look at what might happen when change is introduced into our world either by us or by others and what might get in the way of our embracing the change. I’ve heard it said that people don’t resist change, they resist the perceived pain of change and the fear of the unknown. If you know anything about brain science, then this makes perfect sense. Our brains are hard-wired to keep us safe from harm. Harm could be the unknown so our brain goes into rationalization mode to justify the emotions that have created the feelings and the urge to fight change.

The previous comment about change, however, is what I refer to as high-level thinking – it puts most people into the same bucket – and labels us all the same. If you’ve investigated my website and/or you know me then you know that I am considered an expert in the Birkman Method Assessment. I have been using it for 21 years as an executive or a coach and have taken over 3,000 people through the assessment. And, when it comes to understanding exactly how an individual will approach change the Birkman gives us highly accurate information.

The Birkman gives us a clear and accurate indicator of just how someone approaches change. We are given highly reliable status on three dimensions of a person– 1) a person’s usual style, 2) their intrinsic motivations (needs), and 3) their stress behavior should those needs go unmet. A person’s usual style is viewed from the lens of 10 other areas as well and it indicates the person’s strengths they use should their intrinsic needs be met. Birkman “grades” the person’s area – for our purpose change – on a 1 to 99 scale so that we very easily see a person’s dimensions.  Any score below 50 is low and any score above 50 is considered high. And, then we can group people into the following categories of Usual Style/Needs/Stress behavior: 1) Low, Low, Low, 2) High, High, High, 3) Low, High, High, 4) High, Low, Low, 5) Low, High, Low and 6) High, Low, High. I know that I just lost some of you so hang in there and I’ll give a couple of examples to explain what those six categories mean.

The easy ones to explain are 1 and 2. For a person who is Low Usual Style, Low Need and Low Stress it means that change is very LOW on this person’s radar and indicates the potential of significant push back and resistance to change. Very simply, I can predict with a very high degree of accuracy that this person will not only resist change but be an inhibitor to change in a corporate setting as well as in their own life. They will likely be people of significant routine. This person would best be served doing an occupation where they get to do just about the same thing every day. And, Low Stress doesn’t mean they won’t be stressed by change. We just use that term to predict their stress behavior if they have to change with a high degree of accuracy. It will reflect that since they have a Low Need for change, their stress behavior will look like that of someone who doesn’t like change which more than likely will show up as resistance to change.

Now for the opposite end of the spectrum – High Usual Style, High Needs and High Stress this person is easy to predict as well. This is the person that embraces change, drives change and seeks and needs change on a very regular basis. Routine work would possibly drive this person to leave the company. And, again, their Stress behavior being High just means that they will seek change for the sake of change when the Need for change isn’t met. And, then we have everything in between with the other four descriptors.

I will stop with the Birkman explanation for now, as this blog wasn’t intended to be a master class in the interpretation of Birkman results. I am only scratching the surface of how to use the Birkman information and this blog is meant to serve this purpose – show you that there is actually a very wide spectrum of how people approach change.  And, if you know this about yourself and especially your team, it would be valuable information that could help you break through some of your very own change initiatives and those that you and your organization are trying to implement. One key element this information can provide for the leader of a team is to identify who will easily embrace the change initiatives and who might they need to come alongside and explain in advance what the change is about and why it’s to their benefit before initiating the change effort.

If you have a team that you lead and you don’t have Birkman assessments on your entire team, how do you know how they approach change? Think back to some change initiatives that you’ve personally led with your team. Who was enthusiastic about the change? Who had tons of questions and even challenged the change? Who gave tacit approval and then never got on board? If you will take the time and really reflect on your team, you may be able to come close to predicting their approach to change.

But, here’s what I can tell you – the outward behavior of some of your team will be no indication of that person’s real, intrinsic needs. UnCommon Leaders seek the truth and lead personally. How do you do that? One way would be to have your team take the Bikman!

Onward & Upward!

Ed Chaffin

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