“I don’t believe it! They’re moving me to another room next year. I’ll have to change everything around to fit. This isn’t fair!”
I’d really had enough of this teacher’s complaining. Every time I came into the faculty lounge, there she was, ranting on and on about the unfairness and whining about how put upon she was having to move to a different classroom. I usually didn’t say much, but that day I let her have it… in a very calm and measured way, of course.
“You know, I don’t have a job here next year because of layoffs. I don’t even know where my next paycheck is coming from after my last one in June. In another year we could be located just about anywhere in the country, wherever the seminary sends us. I really don’t want to hear anymore about you having to change your classroom.”
And she was silent.
Our first five years of marriage were a constant change. We lived in five different locations, and I had four different jobs to support us. Even the seminary moved during that time and we found ourselves once again adjusting to a new community.
But finally, we landed in one spot for six years, our first congregation. I welcomed the routine, the feeling of being settled.
There is a constant tension between change and staying the course, trailblazing and tradition. When it comes to business decisions, some people change their minds as often as they change their clothes. These seem to be changes for the sake of change. And usually they are defended in the name of progress! As a teacher, I watched changes come and go. By the time I retired, education methods and philosophies had pretty much returned to where they had started forty years before.
On the other hand, some leaders are so stuck in their ways that they swear they’ll never change. Which is worse, change on a whim or change that will never come? Somewhere in the middle a successful leader needs to land. Otherwise an organization or company can lose its mission focus or become ineffective and obsolete.
Some people don’t deal well with change. Face it. None of us deals well with change… unless we’re the ones initiating it.
As a teacher, I learned that autistic children really don’t handle change very well. Their parents encouraged me to anticipate anything out of the ordinary in our routine schedule… and then warn them. That way they could prepare their children for field trips, planned fire drills, substitute teachers. Constant change was upsetting. Having knowledge of what to expect was comforting.
And that’s true of any organization or family too. Having an understanding of what the change will involve calms anxieties and helps alleviate fears and worries. It’s only fair to give someone warning if a change is coming.
Most people can accept changes if there is a true desire to improve, if it’s obvious something isn’t working the way it should. But besides being warned, they also need to be brought into the decisions that will affect the way they are called upon to do their jobs. Who better to determine if something will actually work than the person expected to create the desired outcome?
We can also decide that now is a good season for making changes… in ourselves, in our plans and dreams, in our attitudes, in our focus, in our relationships. Time for relief from the heat of turmoil, from the constant pressure to compete, to decide, to produce. Time to take stock of new directions for ourselves and our organizations and our families.
But how can we be assured that those changes aren’t arbitrary and that they truly will be of benefit to our company, our employees, our customers? How can we be certain that the change is for the better and won’t just throw everything into a tailspin of confusion and uncertainty?
Besides bringing in the ideas of our colleagues, family members, or the people who will be affected by these changes, there needs to be a constant against which those changes can be measured. It’s essential to have a touchstone to be sure changes truly are beneficial. Oh not in a worldly, bottom line sort of test. No. These changes must be sure to nurture the heart and soul of those involved. The underlying DNA of a company, church, organization or family cannot be sacrificed to an arbitrary attitude of progress at any cost.
Jesus-led leaders need to reflect on some basic tenets. When measured against the unchanging love of our Savior Jesus, will the new directives and procedures, truly be ones that nourish the daily activities of managers and employees or family members?
A bottom line attitude is destined to leave people’s lives and hearts in the dust, whether it be those who are producing or those who are supposed to be benefitting from a service or product or a new way of approaching a task.
But a change that includes the never changing focus on serving and leading with love will always connect with others. And it will always reflect our commitment to lead with a heart that is truly connected to the One who is not a shifting shadow (James 1:17), the One who is never obsolete, the One proclaimed in Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ… the same yesterday and today and forever.”
As leaders we cannot avoid change. We can seek the input and recommendations of a good confidant. But as Christian leaders with our eyes on Jesus, we also make sure that we carefully and prayerfully consider the power that is entrusted to us to make those changes. Only then will we have the assurance and the confidence that our decisions have received the best advice from our Wonderful Counselor, our Lord Jesus.
Leaving my guilt at the cross,
(first published at Lead Like Jesus September 2017)