Moving Forward Into Transformation
by Judy Ryan
“If you can't fly, then run. If you can't run, then walk. If you can't walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, keep moving forward.” --Martin Luther King
Imagine you commit to construct conditions in which creativity, caring, and exceptional results are priority, whether it’s at work, school or home. Just as a caterpillar goes through a complex dismantling into a messy soup in the chrysalis, then slowly forms into a butterfly, it is not free to fly until its wings become strong through continuously pushing against the chrysalis (formerly its blessing but now a barrier to growth) until it becomes strong enough to evolve and soar. So too are you put through a similar disorientating, often stressful, and always life-altering process in which you break down barriers to reach greater freedom.
The transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly is idyllic to most of us because we know the end of the story: a beautiful, free butterfly. However, when you enter a transformation process, you do not know the outcome, and are largely navigating unfamiliar waters. You operate from a belief (largely due to your change agent) that the new will surely be worth transforming the existing conditions. Imagine, you are halfway through your change process and you begin to encounter situations that illicit significant fear, vulnerability, and discomfort in you. Next, you suffer losses and even begin doubting your path altogether.
I am writing this article about a client experiencing similar feelings as he transforms his company. He is a smart, courageous and dedicated business owner with a team of like-minded leaders. Together, they have committed to transform their workplace culture in order to propel their company forward. The problem is that during the change process, some of their team reverts to caterpillar behaviors. Specifically, today one employee reveals he has been hiding resentment, avoiding straightforwardness, and has finally vented frustration to the leaders, with a threat to leave his job unless he gets what he wants. He has abandoned trustworthy behaving.
This situation is an opportunity for the leaders to strengthen their commitment to trustworthiness as priority or devolve into the old pattern: to focus and act from fear. Or they can choose purpose-based conviction. Together, the senior leaders feel discomfort, lose sleep, and eventually consider all positive and negative consequences of multiple diverse paths. They reflect, and consciously choose. This is what defines a responsible leader, whether a parent, a teacher or a business owner.
My job is to help all people to move out of pseudo-community (acting like things are ok when they are not) and chaos (thinking and acting as if others need to be fixed, converted or changed, all from righteousness), so that you become and promote caring, authentic, and collaborative behaving. My job is to help people remember to have hope, to believe in stable, sustainable, success, and remind you how far you have come and that you are always at choice; to transform or not to transform.
In this situation, I asked the owner and each senior team member, “What do you most want concerning this situation?” It was tough for each because when they focused on their fear of losing an employee, they struggled to keep sight of the new culture model. But when they compared the paths of fear with those of purpose, they could see all the long and short-term outcomes of each path and were able to align with a purpose-based one. This is not easy nor for the faint of heart.
Today, they decide to live according to the responsibility-based model they have chosen, despite possible positive consequences (alignment to the truth creates internal confidence and peace) and potential negative consequences too (such as the possible loss a much-needed employee, and lost business/revenues). Today, they re-align with trustworthiness and lean into it fully. They seek to contribute solutions to the world, now and later. There is no greater, harder, or more courageous work than a life of conscious, awake, and purpose-based choice.