It’s time to stop living in denial! I volunteered to write this post for Spark the Change as I thought it would be easy. I’ve been working on this post for several weeks now and struggling to find the words to help explain denial. I started to wonder whether I was in denial about being in denial about something. What a paradox this became.
Denial is a defence mechanism humans use to protect ourselves from something uncomfortable or painful. In this state of denial people believe they are seeing something as right or just. Living in this state doesn’t make things better or the problem go away, but it can feel easier to deal with for a period of time. A different reality may be obvious to those around them but in the state of denial any suggestion regarding your mindset will be difficult to believe.
I have been in a constant state of change for months now. In my own practice I have been transforming myself and the business I am in. Thanks to this blog I spent a considerable amount of time being introspective and even working with my coach on this topic. It turns out there has been a significant area in which I was living in denial. Once I realized this and started making a shift lots has opened for me. I believe had I not addressed this area of denial it would have impacted me for a long time to come.
How to prevent a transformation from taking hold:
I once worked at a large company in which my department had a reputation for the crappy results we delivered. With time, everyone realized we needed to change our approach to work and a transformation was born. This transformation encountered a significant hurdle right from the start. The VP told us we were not allowed to change or challenge the corporate culture.
The VP was a long term employee of this company and strongly believed they had the right recipe for success. Given this, the VP believed the only thing it made sense to change was in fixing how the existing people did their work, within the existing structure, and with the existing constraints. Unfortunately there were numerous things impacting our ability to succeed stemming from the blind spot created by this constraint.
By not being willing to challenge the culture of the organization, it handcuffed the transformation to the point of strangling it to death. Eventually the skeptics won out, the transformation died and the department went back to doing it the way they have always done it.
This story is hardly unique. It’s easy to find managers looking for help in fixing their team, and difficult to find managers who see and are willing to confront the areas they are living in denial. Given it’s a blind spot how would someone know? There is no easy way to see areas of denial but here are some signs you may be living in denial:
- You have done little to improve your own approach to working in the past week, month and potentially year
- Your company is going to undertake a transformation and you believe all that is required is something to fix your employees/teams
- You believe you can buy a solution to your company’s problems from one of the high priced consultancies, install it and suddenly you will see great results from your teams
Denial amongst managers is one of the leading causes of failure for organizational transformations. Addressing denial is never easy, but it starts by deciding you will stop living in denial! Just making this decision is not enough though. You need to start by thinking outside the box and be willing to confront everything in the way of change including your own actions (more on confronting next week).
You may want to also look at a different kind of conference. Spark the Change is not going to be your normal change conference. The tracks Unleashing people, Disruption and Change, and Organizing the organization will be full of engaging speakers who will have you looking at yourself as much as your organization. It’s time to stop living in denial!