Jim Bearden is an authority on change. You might say he wrote the book on change, or at least a book: The Relentless Search for Better Ways. But last summer, when the popular speaker, consultant, and fitness buff heard these sobering words from his cardiologist, all those lofty ideas about accepting and embracing change were put to the test:
“I don’t like what I’m seeing” the doctor said.
Bearden’s artery was 80 percent clogged. He had open heart surgery, and was told by his doctor to become a vegan (“You know what a vegan means?” the native Texan said. “It means if it has a Momma or a face on it, you can’t eat it.”)
Bearden changed his diet, big-time, and did indeed become a vegan; but here’s the interesting thing: faced with similar life-threatening diagnosis and calls to change their lifestyles, he said, only 10 percent of patients would comply.
The same aversion to change is present when individuals get together –in businesses, associations, and other institutions, Bearden said at the opening general session of NSBA’s Leadership Conference Saturday. And it can be equally fatal. Faced with change, “some do what I call hunker down and hope,” Bearden said. But others “look for ways to win, regardless of the hands they’re dealt.”
It is these organizations that are successful.
Bearden outlined seven steps that create a change-friendly culture in an organization. First, ensure that others — your employees, for example — understand what you expect from them. And, if you run a state association, be sure you know what your members expect from you. That requires communication, not just selling your organization.
“It’s a whole lot more about asking and listening than pitching and hoping,” Bearden said.
Among the other steps: identify and eliminate barriers to the behavior you expect, model that behavior, measure performance using your expectations as standards, and honor effort and progress. The goal is to create an organization in which taking well-considered risks is embedded in the culture.
“To me, culture is to an association what attitude is to an individual,” Bearden said.
Risk-taking – change – means there will be setbacks, Bearden said. It comes with the territory.
“The choices you make regarding those setbacks count more.”