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Can We See the Light?

By Joey Havens

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Opening our condo door in Oxford, MS (home of my Ole Miss Rebels), I hear this fluttering noise and quickly look around. What is that? Quiet now. It’s about 9 p.m., dark, and I have had a long day on the lake fishing so I’m really excited about getting upstairs and hitting the bed early.    

Walking into the kitchen to grab a bottle of water, a sparrow flies directly over my head and back into the den. Now I know what I heard. 

No problem — I open the front door and step away, assuming this little bird will high tail it out of here. NOPE! He is sitting on top of the curtains, just staring at me. Maybe a little nudge will help as I ease around so he is between me and the open door. Waving my arms, he flies right past the front door, does a u-turn over my head and ends up back in the kitchen where we started. After about three rounds of this circus, I get the broom to direct him towards the door.  

Well, other than increased flight speed, the broom is getting the same result as before. Kitchen, over my head, back to the den, u-turn (past front door, over my head, back to kitchen. Okay little birdie, playing nice is over as I take a swing hoping to stun him long enough to place him back outside. And now, I am on strike 10 or so. I remember why I batted about .250 in high school now. Thank goodness this is not on video. He’s tired; I’m tired. I decide to just go to bed and leave him downstairs in the dark for the night. 

After a great night’s sleep, I ease down the stairs to see where my feathered friend is. There he is sitting on his perch on top of the curtains in the den. Easing very slowly down the last step, I open the front door and the sunshine fills the room. 

Little birdie immediately raises his head and flies straight out the front door without me moving a muscle. 

He didn’t want to spend the night with me in the condo, he simply couldn’t see the light to know where outside was until the next morning.  

This bird can teach us so much about change management and mindsets. Can you think of a scarier time when you had more change in your life and how you work? Our firms and businesses are faced with transformational change all around us — which we hopefully are anticipating and being quick to recognize. What I have learned from my bird friend and from leading change management is that just because the front door is open and the change might be evident doesn’t mean your team or those around you can see it. I could not change that bird’s mind on where he felt safest and we can’t change the mindsets of our team members.  

Once they see the light, everyone will move quickly and in the right direction. How do we shine a light for them on change management?  

In my experience, it takes several things for effective change management:

  • Education on the why and messaging it over and over.  
  • Collaboration where people weigh in so they can buy in quicker.  
  • Flexibility on solutions for the sunlight. We might collaborate on opening a window versus the front door as a step in the right direction.  
  • One-on-one commitment conversations on the level of personal buy-in so we can continue to move together.  
  • Regular progress updates so that people can see the light when we are in the darkest part of the journey.  

It is always harder than we think, so keeping the vision of the beautiful sunshine greeting us is critical for effective change management. Thank you, little birdie, and safe flights. 

Time for a Good Scrub?