Change is Hard

IMG_0052The one thing that I keep learning as a human on this planet is that change isn’t easy. It’s not fun – at least not at the start. It’s hard work.

One recent change I’ve been struggling with is my new leg brace, pictured at right. I have CMT, a neurologic disease that causes calf atrophy, foot drop, and instability while standing or walking. I’ve suffered from the symptoms for over 20 years. I thought the calf atrophy was due to my two back surgeries over the years, so didn’t think anything of it. It was how I walked.

The brace is a pretty cool little device – custom molded to my foot and leg, carbon fiber so light as a feather. The stiffness of the carbon fiber holds my foot flat and holds it in alignment with the leg and knee. That’s the way skeletal alignment is supposed to work, but with my foot drop, I’ve walked out of alignment for 20 years.

The hard part I’m experiencing is that walking in alignment is causing much hip pain and back pain. Why? Because I’ve grown accustomed to accommodating my leg weakness and foot drop. My current gait is very distinct. I throw my right leg out while walking so my foot falls flat, rather than rolling (like a sprained ankle), causing me to catch myself or fall over.

The brace aligns my foot, calf, and knee as it’s supposed to be aligned. My hip and back aren’t used to that new alignment. Muscles are working differently. And, they’re not happy – nor are the nerve endings.

The leg brace is good for me. It’s safer – I won’t stumble as much. And, the new way of walking hurts my hip and back. So, comfort will take awhile.

Another hard change I’ve observed is one I’m helping a client with. We’re helping an organization shift from a purely economic purpose (“making money”) to a people-centered purpose. Plans, decisions, and actions have not taken people into account. They were driven by dollars and cents.

Bosses were hired and trained to honor the dollar and to virtually ignore their people. Engagement is at an all-time low. Turnover is high – and they’re losing talented players. Customer service is suffering.

A long-time leader was recently promoted to help with the culture change. At a company meeting, he was in casual conversation with some of his direct reports on a break.

At one point, he made a teasing comment about one of his team members in the group. It was mean-spirited. The laughter was subdued.

We gave this leader prompt feedback. He immediately understood that his comment wasn’t appropriate – especially now with the new focus on valuing people. He said, “I’m so used to using humor with these players. I know that comment was over the line.”

“This is going to be hard.”

Change is hard. And, if you’re looking to walk in alignment or act in alignment, those changes will help you embrace more effective ways.

What changes are hard for you today? How have your best bosses helped your team through needed changes? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © Chris Edmonds Photography. All rights reserved.

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