I attended some Rotary leadership training yesterday and experienced a very powerful exercise relating to the difficulty of personal change. In the photo it looks like a strange seance. Maybe it was! It was so hard to do, I wondered if there were some some supernatural forces at work.
- You can see in the photo a long piece of dowel, flat on one side.
- Each pair had to poke out their index fingers, shot gun style. Then they had to align them with the opposite person’s index fingers, one inside the other. The dowel was placed on top.
- The rule: Everyone’s index fingers must have the dowel resting on them all the time.
- The task: Lower the dowel as a team. (Talk about easy!)
I took the photo while I was watching this other team fail completely at the task. ’Heavens’, I thought. ’What a bunch of klutzes!’
But when it came to my turn, we could not get that dowel to lower!
On the one hand the group knew we had to lower it, so we tried bending our knees. Unfortunately, each individual team member knew they had to keep their index fingers touching the dowel, so each of us must have lightly pressed up on the dowel to achieve that. That darn piece of dowel kept going up and up and up, no matter how hard we tried to lower it.
‘Leadership’, I thought. ‘Okay, on a count of three, we will all bend our knees and lower it that way! One, two, three, bend!’… Darn thing went up.
After multiple tries, the best we managed was that one end lurched way down and the other lifted way up!
Don’t you think change is like that? We know we need to alter some habit, but we keep sliding back into touching the easy emotional dowel of our old behaviour.
We might be told that our team behaviour has to change and we know that. But each one of us isn’t truly committed to that because we just relax back into our usual ways. In umpteen small lapses the change becomes more and more remote.
How to stop pressing back up into past ways of doing things? There are some good personal tips here at: 12 Tips for Creating Lasting Change and an interesting piece on reducing resistance to change among your employees at: Change Management Coach
I still can’t believe how hard that exercise was!