On February 12, 2014, the Nova Scotia Commission on building our new economy, headed by Ray Ivany, released its report, “Now or Never: An Urgent Call to Action for Nova Scotians” (the “Ivany Report”). According to Ivany, this Province’s economy is in crisis. Ivany challenges us to change the risk-averse and non-entrepreneurial Nova Scotia business culture. Despite the Ivany’s clarion call it seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Why?
Change is difficult, even when it is a matter of life or death. Two Harvard psychologists, Kegan and Lahey referred to a heart study that proves this point (at page 1):
Not long ago a medical study showed that if heart doctors tell seriously at-risk heart patients that they will literally die if they do not make changes to their personal lives – diet, exercise, smoking – still only one in seven is actually able to make the changes. One in seven! And we can safely assume that the other six wanted to live, see more sunsets, watch their grandchildren grow up. They didn’t lack a sense of urgency. The Incentives could not be greater.
According to Kegan and Lahey, making a real change, such as becoming more entrepreneurial, requires more than making a to-do list. People need to step into new perspectives – that is, to make an adaptive change. The impediment, however, is that current perspectives are familiar, comfortable and have worked in the past.
For example, parenting newborns requires a protective parenting perspective. The guiding principles and values are those of protector and guardian. While these perspectives work well with toddlers, they do not work for raising teenagers. If you bring the perspective of protector and guardian to teenage parenting, the result will only be conflict.
Parents of teenagers need new guiding principles, which allow for the child’s independence and embrace trust. Adopting this perspective, however, feels like letting go and losing control. The discomfort and fear of losing control gets in the way of change.
Growing a business is much like raising a child. In the beginning, the entrepreneur is everything to the business, the protector and guardian. The business has to be nurtured, paying attention to every minute detail in much the same way that a parent does for a new born.
But when the business grows and there is a team of people responsible for its success, there has to be an adaptive change. The team will expect to be treated with independence, respect and fairness. Delegation and trust become the new important guiding principles for the entrepreneur to step into to avoid conflict and discontent within the team. However, stepping into this new perspective also feels like letting go and losing control.
It is one thing to change perspectives when you are aware of the perspective you are standing in. Kegan and Lahey point out that very often we are unaware of the perspective we are standing in and how that perspective gets in the way of the changes we need or want to make. It is impossible to move to the right perspective if you don’t even realize that you are standing in the wrong one.
So how do we make adaptive changes? How will we risk-averse Nova Scotians make changes to become more entrepreneurial, to seek new opportunities, when these changes are scary and uncomfortable?
In coaching terms, the steps are these:
- Go to the land of possibility.
As Nelson Mandela put it: “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” So, what is the big goal? What would you like to achieve? What is the new entrepreneurial vision?
- List all the things that you have been doing, or have not been doing, instead (the ‘Interference’ list).
This is the list of things you do and the things you don’t do, which get in the way of stepping into the new vision.
- Look at the ‘Interference, list and ask why?
Why do I do those things that hold me back? What assumptions or fears do I have? What beliefs do I hold that are in the way? These questions shine a light on the perspective in which you are standing.
- Move toward the new perspective you need to stand into.
As my friend Tim Brennan (founder of HiringSmart Inc.) describes it, the process is like learning to play the piano. In the first lesson, the piano teacher assesses where you are, gives you a lesson and assigns homework. The second lesson begins with assessing how you did. The teacher corrects any errors, gives a new lesson and ends with more homework. This process continues and six months later you’re playing the piano.
The lessons do not begin with learning a complex piece of music like a Mozart concerto. Most likely they begin with the Chopsticks. “Chopsticks” is easy to play. The easy task is less scary and low risk.
Any adaptive change, even in business, starts with safe and easy challenges first. The function of the coach is to help breakdown the process of change into manageable, safe tasks. At each session the coach explores three key questions:
- What worked with the task (this is what the client will keep doing)?
- What didn’t work (this is what the client will stop doing)?; and
- What is the next task/step (this is the accountability piece)?
This is the process by which coaches ‘evoke transformation’. Evoking transformation is what we, as Nova Scotians, need to do to change our business culture.
By Ronald Pizzo. Ron practices in our mediation, litigation and conflict resolution group. He holds the QMed. designation and is a certified mediator. Ron is also a certified coach having completed training the CTI co-active coaching training. Ron has a thriving coaching business helping professionals, including lawyers, in their working world.
 Tim Brennan, “The Music Teacher Was Right”. If you would like a copy of Tim’s article, please email me and I will put you in touch with him.