At the heart of what I do is a simple idea: people find change hard and I can make it easier for them, so they can achieve things that they thought were impossible.
Having worked in large, complex organisations for over 25 years, I have been on the receiving end of organisational change, been part of change and I have led change. And through those experiences, I became fascinated about how we think about and respond to change.
Organisations are constantly changing – they have no choice in today’s uncertain and dynamic world. But to change successfully requires the people in the organisation to embrace it – and that is often overlooked, or taken for granted. It’s no surprise to me that research shows failure rates in large change programmes are around 75%. Because leaders and organisations keep repeating the same mistakes.
It’s not actually the change which is the issue, it’s a lack of understanding of how we, as humans, respond to it. We will change when there is greater value or benefit from moving than staying where we are. That may be because of our motivation for something new and better, or it may be because we realise staying where we are will come at a cost that we are not prepared to bear.
The key is to understand our response to change. Not all change is hard – few of us found picking up an iPhone too scary and we could figure it out pretty quickly because it came with an intuitive user interface and operating system. Most of us chose to play with an iPhone and try it out because there was a potential reward – it was a shiny new gadget and others were raving about it, so how bad could it be?
But other changes are really hard. You know, the kind of change which feels like it is being imposed on you without an obvious benefit, or where you have no influence over it, it has been imposed on you. It could be a new IT system at work which will make your job more complicated, or a change in your boss to report to someone who was previously a peer, or a change in your relationship with a partner outside work.
There are a number of things going on here, not least the way our brains are wired. When we perceive a change as a threat or having a downside, our brain goes into protect mode. On the other hand, when we perceive a change as rewarding, our brain views this as something to embrace, triggering positive emotions that help us move towards the change without fear.
My own life has been full of change and learning about my response to it. Growing up was full of fun and joy – a loving family, I did pretty well at school, was keen on sports, girls were willing to go out with me. And then, aged 18, when I had just started university, I lost my dad to cancer.
At that time, I wasn’t equipped to deal with a change of that magnitude, didn’t have help and it followed me like a shadow for years. Now, having explored it with help from my own coach, I understand how it shaped me. It has shaped my beliefs, values and my life mantra – “don’t worry, be happy” (thanks to Bobby McFerrin as it was one of my dad’s favourite songs).
Experience of change throughout my career and life since has continued my learning and my conviction that the key is to understand our emotions and why we feel the way we do about change. It’s rarely something to be feared when it is an opportunity to learn. But often we need help and an outside perspective to see it that way.
And that has brought me to this place. I have personally felt both the fear and the benefit of embracing change. It’s not always easy, at times it’s incredibly hard. But with the benefit of hindsight I can see what I learned from all the changes that have shaped my story and how I see things now.
My own story is still being written. I founded Change Oasis in December 2018 to help others reframe their story so that they could change their life and change the world in ways they did not yet appreciate. It continues to be a privilege to help people in this work, from individuals to teams and whole organisations.
If you would like to explore how I can help you to navigate change in your world, drop me a line at email@example.com and I’d be happy to have a conversation with you.