Reflections on Change — NBOA 2014 Change Leadership Workshop

Today was a banner day. I've just finished the Change Leadership Workshop here at the NBOA Annual Meeting, and I wanted to share a few closing thoughts as we gear up for the wonderful week ahead. 

People who attend change workshops tend to be people who are already primed for change. And yet, this group I had the honor of working with today was hands-down the most excited group of change advocates I've met. This was a group energized and ready to engage their campuses deeply in positive change. 

 Photo courtesy  @LeahThayer

Photo courtesy @LeahThayer

What they shared with me was their thirst for a systematic approach to energize the people around them in big ideas. Why are they struggling with this? They're certainly not alone. They're not alone because common sense is so often thrown out the window when people are stressed. And when we attempt big, harrowing, audacious change ... oh boy, do we get stressed.

It's funny, then, that the most important lesson for a group of change leaders might not be the systematic change process after all. The lesson is one of permission. Permission to feel confused when confronted with change. Permission to feel frustration. Permission to feel denial and grief. It is absolutely appropriate to struggle with change, and to let your people feel the same.

In my conversations with attendees after the event, I heard some wonderful snippets of conversation. "I have places I can grow."

"I know I can be better." 

"I know I need to piss some people off." 

To attendees, you're going to head back to your offices in a few days and the conference glow will begin to dim. Before you succumb to the rhythm of work, before you let the day-to-day take over, remember that you have to practice this stuff to master it. So grab the people you work with and bring them all together. Find a problem, use the decision-model, and revisit your collective ability to approach tough problems. Don't skip steps, and don't wait to put these ideas in front of the people who need to see it. Oh, and if you'd like some help on-site, you know who you can call.

Thank you for the opportunity to work with you today. And I wish you the best in your change journey ahead.