Change… credibility… identity

20140720-224229-81749506.jpgThere’s a few things that are going off for me at the moment:

1) studying about the topics of emotions and credibility
2) working with a great company where we are working hard to create a big change in both the company and the profession
3) dealing with the combination (personally and in the company) of 1 & 2

Let’s start with some context as an example of the kind of change we are aiming at:

From: ‘If you want to hire someone, you need to do X, Y and Z with at least two of you doing Y and Z. Then you need to follow process Q, R, S to get the role signed off and do a final interview with big boss T (so if it goes wrong, it’s not just your ass on the line).

To: ‘If you find someone that is stunning in interaction, hire them, hire them now. We will find a way to make everything else happen.’

Essentially, you are free from the shackles of process and control. Be free and responsible.

Yes, that sort of change.

That is just one example, there’s more like that on the go. We have also been at it for approx 3.5 months and recently had what I will elegantly call ‘a wobble’. That is, we had a moment of ‘are we up to this? is it too much? are we capable?’ Remember, this is a perfectly normal reaction to the fact that there is a desire to get things happening ‘fast’.

**Personally, I have issues with ‘fast’ (or it’s alter ego ‘at pace’) and I will save those for another post, for now, back to the current context.**

As the wonderful Simon Heath put out on his blog last week, when it comes to change we have some big issues:

A) People can do stuff like steal and ruin companies
B) People can do stuff like work with more energy, enthusiasm and care than you ever thought possible
C) People can be nasty
D) People can be nice
E) If you want to change people then you need to do just that.
F) Addressing behavioural change will have less success and/or take longer.

However, dealing with E above is hard, really, really, really, really, really hard.

Why? Because you are asking someone to fundamentally change who they are in one of two ways. Either:

i) the ‘self’ as they see themselves
ii) the ‘self’ they have created and negotiated with the world around them

Both of these are going to be a mammoth task to do.

Why? Because we are social beings and social society relies on order. It relies on us knowing what we are, where we fit, the lines we take, the views we hold, the opinions we have, the way we want to be viewed, how others view us. Once we have defined that (or had it defined for us), we will do all we can (yes all we can) to act in line with that.

Let’s think about it for a moment (I use that phrase a lot when I blog, I hope it works for you):

Imagine, on occasion you make a funny quip or comment at an opportune moment and others find it funny. You get told that you are funny. You look and find more opportunities to say (or do) funny stuff and once again, you are told (or work out) that you are funny. Soon enough, you are dubbed as ‘the funny one’. Then one night, you are out and friend A says to a colleague you don’t know, ‘ooh ooh, meet XXXXXX (s)he’s so funny. XXXXXX come over *A turns away to talk to friend and says something like ‘oh you will love XXXXXXX they’re so funny!* For (my) arguments sake, let’s say you don’t feel particularly funny this evening, in fact you just wanted to chill with A. You are left with a tough predicament now. Do you:

– oblige and be funny.
– say you aren’t in the mood and risk damaging your and your friends credibility (as A said you were ‘so funny’ and what you are doing isn’t ‘being funny’ in fact, it’s the opposite.
– do above and then use ambiguity to play it off as a joke to (hopefully) tell A you didn’t appreciate being set up and to deliver on the promise.

What we have going on here is the ritual of interaction whereby we all want to keep each others identity from being ‘threatened’ by actions that we do which are in deviation from the identity we have set or negotiated for ourselves.

Does that make sense? I hope so, it did to me as I wrote this.

Now, let’s translate that to a work context.

Imagine you have negotiated yourself as someone that does what they need to, delivers when asked or expected, consistently stays within the rules and boundaries and does a great job. Suddenly being told that you can now be anything, you are free to scope, to be whomever you want to be. Freedom from process, rules and control.

The challenge? You have spent years having the original the version of yourself created and reinforced by you and/or all those around you.


Why the f*%k would you give that up in a heartbeat? Quite simply you wouldn’t. As Simon put it:

“Oh, here comes the latest bright idea. Let’s humour them until we can get back to doing what we’ve always done but now with added beanbags.”

Let me be clear, this isn’t cynicism. This is a perfectly natural reaction. Identity and credibility are things that we hold on to, very, very, very tightly. We aren’t going to give them up quickly or without thought, they are too important to us.

You may now cry ‘some people love change’ and you are right, they do. Crucially, only if it’s in line with the self they have already defined. Guess what, they have defined themselves and/or negotiated it as being ‘someone that changes’ so it fits their identity, it’s a no brainer. For those that haven’t got that as part of their identity………… Oh.

What am I saying here?

– Identity and credibility are more important to humans than you can possibly imagine.
– If you want people to change, hearts and minds aren’t enough. You are appealing to the core of people. Who they are and more than that, why they are here (that’s why Simon Sinek’s TED talk is so ace).
– Change is hard and redefining who someone is and why they are here is done from without and within.

Thanks for reading, I hope you liked it and if you want to continue the discussion, please do so below.

Thank you.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s