Voice Over - Three Bits of Change Resiliency Wisdom
Recently during a change resiliency capability workshop, I had an attendee ask me a question: “What is the best advice you’ve ever given during one of these workshops?”
Good question. Honestly, I think the best advice I ever give people is to just take a moment and breathe. It’s my Swiss Army Knife of change recommendations. Like Dean’s “drink water and take an ibuprofen,” it works for literally everything large and small. Going into a tough coaching conversation? Breathe. Dealing with a cranky customer? Breathe. Rough day at the office? Breathe. Someone staring at your bosom? Punch him in the chops…. No no no. Just breathe (discretely) and let it all go. The breathing exercise is fundamentally about circles of control. We will pull in the frustration, anger, fear, uncertainty or doubt, spend a moment reflecting on what is within our circle of control, and let go of the things over which we have categorically zero control.
Even in moments of deepest fear and panic, you should just frickin’ stop and breathe for a half second. Funny that. Everyone talks about how important reaction time can be in an emergency. However, I’ve been in emergencies… real life threatening, boat foundering emergencies. The ones who handled it best on the boat in the moment were those who pulled up, pulled in, thought about the situation and then reacted. I can see my daughters all yelling at the screen right now because honestly? I wasn’t that person. Dean is that person. Jaime is that person. Mera sort of freezes and then gets out of the way, and Aeron was so young that her reactions had more to do with how much sleep she’d had than any sort of really well thought out strategy; Most of the time she would just roll over ignore her screechy mother. And yes, shamefully I was the panicked screamer.
Just breathing in an emergency for many of us is in an acquired skill which I fully admit to still mastering. I’m better. The girls will probably argue about this, but I did get better over time. Probably what is more accurate is that they learned how to manage me through the first few seconds until my smarter self could take over. Granted, I do better when my entire family and virtually everything I own are not literally hanging on the choices I make in the next 30 seconds.
So I tell people to breathe. I show them how they can use that breath to reflect on the situation, change their frame of reference, let go of the things they can not change, and move forward. And they all smile, promise to breathe seven days as homework, and promptly forget my outstandingly useful advice.
A different but related question: “What is the advice that people most take on board?”
With teams who routinely deal with insurance customers, the most resonate piece of insight I have ever delivered is drawing the explicit connection between a customer interaction and the change curve. Every single insurance customer who calls our organisation is in the back half of a change curve. At minimum, they are changing or acquiring a new relationship with someone who is going to take their money for an unknown return. For Sales calls, they are likely to have also recently sold or purchased a car, a house, or other large asset. For Claims calls, they will have just experienced a loss through storm or accident or theft. In other words, they are all miserable.
Every time I say that, all the heads in the room start bobbing, the eyes light up, and a collective “wooo… that’s so true… that explains so much…” swirls through the room. Yeah, it does. Why are customers such shit heads? They are sliding rapidly down their change curves into the swirling trough of despair. All you can do to help them out of that is to slap a bit of info on the problem and try to influence them to start looking forward. Good luck with that. I literally make my career trying to get people to start moving up the change curve, and its thankless difficult job. Self-care and a lot of breathing quite helpful. Look at me not letting go of Tip #1.
Final question: “Which of these seeds do you use on yourself, Toast?”
Probably, the tip I actually model best is “try new things every chance you get.” I change seats on the ferry, eat foods I’ve never seen, read books on topics I care nothing about. I try new tech as soon as it’s released, play video games, embrace new music, explore every possible self-help and self-hacking tool out there. I don’t necessarily like it all. I’m not saying I think crickets are delicious (they’re like crunching cellophane so the flavour is all in the topping) and watching cricket is a pleasurable experience (it’s not… it’s like watching paint dry). I’m saying that I try everything I can, change little things and big ones all the time, routinely mess with my own head and push myself out of my comfort zone. Do I get into ruts? Sure. Am I forever seeking ways to knock myself out of them? Hell yes. Big changes are much easier if you’re fundamentally immune to all the small ones.
“The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself.” ~ Oscar Wilde