Managing Personal Change
Leading, managing and surviving organisational change is inseparable from managing personal change
The whole subject of managing personal change has largely been the provenance of the worlds of personal development and self improvement.
From a change management perspective, and in my own view, Professors Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey in their latest book: "Immunity to Change - How To Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization" have addressed one of the cornerstones of successfully leading, managing and surviving change, namely: organisations change when people change.
This puts the whole business of managing personal change on the map and thus on the agenda for the business world.
Managing Personal Change - Resources HERE
We can be taught but we still won't change
The inherent and flawed assumption in most training and work-related attempts at managing personal change - in support of organisational change - is that it is skills based, in other words we can be taught to change.
Whilst it is true that we can be taught, generally we won't change.
We can't change because of our "immunity to change" or inner resistance.
So what is the root cause of all inner personal resistance to managing personal change?
Kegan and Lahey define inner personal resistance (or as they call it "immunity") to change as a "hidden commitment", with an underlying root cause, that competes and conflicts with a stated commitment to change.
So at root, it is these hidden commitments that cause us to not keep New Year resolutions, to fail with diets, to not stop smoking etc.
Managing personal change starts with a clear understanding of what our unconscious or hidden commitments really are.
Here is my summary of how this inner resistance develops and why, and how it manifests:
Managing Personal Change - Resources HERE
- From early childhood onwards, we all develop our own inner map of reality
- As we develop, we understand, interpret and relate to the world "out there" through this inner map
- Our capacity to be conscious or aware of our own inner map and especially how we create our experience of life through it is determined by our level of self-awareness
- However, for most of us, most of the time, this is an unconsious process
- In accordance with this inner map we have our own inner commitments to our own personal priorities
- Our inner hidden commitments have a high priority and will over-ride any counter intentions that conflict with them
- We assign this high priority because the hidden commitment is inextricably linked to an inner hidden perception that we have of our own physical, psychological, social or emotional safety
- This hidden commitment is (nearly always) outside of our conscious awareness
- The quickest and easiest way to identify our inner resistance is to observe our reactions and our behaviour in our attempts to change
The "knowing doing gap"
This is often referred to as the "knowing doing gap", or as Kegan puts it:
"... how to close the gap between our intentions, things we actually want to carry out, and what we are actually able to do".
For more information and resource on Kegan and Lahey's work an "Immunity to change" - see the resources HERE
The need for an adaptive response to managing personal change
As John Kotter has said, the scale and pace of change that is impacting organisations now is such that it cannot often be planned for and thus it pushes leaders and followers into positions that require adaptive solutions.
This can only happen when leaders and followers interact with their environment and change their behaviour in response to that environment.
The capacity to respond adaptively
However, an adaptive response is only possible when those being involved in managing personal change have either the personal developmental capacities to do this, or have resources to help them.
The adaptive mind
Kegan and Lahey have a developmental stage model that outlines their view of how adults develop mental complexity and this is based around 3 plateaux of adult mental developmental complexity.
(1) The socialised mind - people are shaped by the definitions and expectations of their personal environment, they are loyal to the group with which they identify and communicate and make sense of information in relation to these loyalties.
(2) The self-authoring mind - people are able to step back enough from their social environment to create their own personal framework or agenda for judgment and action; they send information that is likely to advance their own mission or agenda; and they filter out information that does not have obvious relevance to their particular agenda.
(3) The self-transforming mind - people can take a step from and reflect on the limits of their own framework; they not only advance their agenda and design, but also make space for modifications; they prioritise information that may reveal limits to their current design or frame.
The self-transforming mind is an adaptive mind capable of providing adaptive solutions to complex problems.
In very simple terms, the "level of mind" of an individual is reflected by the level of self awareness of the individual and their capacity for holistic thinking – that is to say, their capacity to assimilate and reflect on, and act upon, the widest perspective – everyone else’s perspectives as well as their own.
A further key factor in managing personal change is the extent to which the individual has the capacity to recognise that they are not their thoughts - to not mistake the map for the territory - and to have an expanded sense of personal identity that is beyond their own and others perspectives, and that is grounded in values, a higher purpose and in simple terms an expanded consciousness of who they really are or are not!
Managing Personal Change - Resources HERE
"Well the truth may come in strange disguises…"
Truth appears in many guises and yet because of the filters that we automatically and unconsciously apply to every new piece of incoming information we frequently don’t – or more accurately can’t – see it.
Because we are all the product of our own ethnic, national, social and religious backgrounds we have an inbuilt inner map that see life from the perspective of that background.
This inner map applies a whole range of filters related to the characteristics and profile of our broad environmental background.
As we have already established with reference to Kegan and Lahey’s work, we also develop our own unique inner map of reality shaped by our own personal early influences and develop our own personal beliefs based on that map - largely unconsciously - to navigate us through life and primarily to keep us safe.
The power of inner beliefs
Also, with reference to Kegan and Lahey’s work, these inner beliefs are very strong and the root cause of our resistance to anything that conflicts with those beliefs, and cause us to not do things we commit to doing.
These inner beliefs also act as very strong filters and stop us seeing or hearing anything that conflicts with those beliefs.
OK, let’s turn all this around a little.
Another aspect of managing personal change is how these inner maps and inner beliefs takes effect as a result of education and professional training.
Context, framing and language
I have the profoundest respect for the rationalism of western education grounded in the scientific method.
Yet paradoxically, education, professional training and expertise in any field can lead to an unconscious myopia in receiving and, more importantly, processing information from what are perceived to be "unlikely", "unorthodox" and "unexpected" sources, and thus impede our attempts at managing personal change.
This is all to do with context, framing and language.
Kegan and Lahey’s ideas about personal resistance in the context of managing personal change is really not a new insight.
Yet it is regarded as such by the business world, by the academic world and by the world of organisational development because within that context, framing and language it is.
So we need to adopt approaches that address this "professional myopia" in our attempts at managing personal change.
Managing Personal Change - Resources HERE
Confusing the map with the territory
A more fundamental problem with our inner maps is that most of the time we confuse them with reality. We confuse our interpretation, our filtered perceptions with reality.
We confuse our thoughts and more importantly our emotional associations with an experience – with the experience.
Reality is the territory – the unfiltered, uncategorized, direct experience now in the present moment.
The direct experience of eating tasty food – the unconditional love of a parent or child – the energy and abandonment of a good sexual experience - cannot be confused with our inner representations of them or the words we may use to attempt to describe these powerful experiences.
Imagine how many words you would need to describe the taste of freshly ground coffee to someone who has never heard of nor seen yet alone tasted coffee, compared with the directness of brewing them a cup and letting them taste it for themselves.
The double bind of language and articulation
The concepts we employ, the categorizations we apply and the words we choose and use to articulate a direct experience put us in a double bind, and it is this:
For everything we gain by being to verbalize and articulate an experience we lose an equal if not greater amount of the full meaning of that experience by the very process of articulation.
This lost meaning becomes exacerbated as the words we use to describe something are always heard or read within a context, framing and language.
There is always a context and framing and language.
To illustrate and personalize this right now, the words that I am writing to you here in this article - and that I can hear in my head as I type this - have a meaning to me that is created and shaped by my inner map of reality.
However you, as you read this will be receiving, filtering and interpreting these words about managing personal change with your inner map of reality.
What I mean to say and what you hear may not be the same thing!
So how on earth do I develop an adaptive mind?
You are most likely to want to for either or both of the following reasons:
(1) Aspiration – you are inwardly motivated or drawn towards this
(2) Desperation – your survival (in any sense) depends on it!
As Kegan and Lahey pointed out, in our attempts at managing personal change we can be taught but that alone will not change us. We need adaptive tools...
Zen Tools - For Tough Times
Resources for developing an adaptive mind
In my direct personal experience, there are some excellent and worthy self improvement resources out there that really can make a difference to our lives, and that do address the core issues of immunity/inner resistance to change, and I want to share these with you.
I have used each of these resources either in the form of the product or service shown or in a generic form, and over many years. I commend each of these resources to you.
I have created a separate page for each resource that provides an overview together with an outline of my own experience and a recommendation.
Most of these resources offer a free service option in the form of newsletters and support material and all give good guarantees and have a full refund policy.
Personal Development Tools
Self Talk: Dealing With The Ghost In Your Machine
NLP Course: Achieve and Sustain Peak Performance
Meditation Programme + Relaxation Music
No More Boredom + No More Years Of Training!
Relaxation + Meditation Music + Guided Meditations
Personal Development + Spiritual Growth Programmes
Guy Finley: Life of Learning Foundation
Higher Awareness: Personal Development and Spiritual Growth Programmes
Resources for managing personal change
Personality types and thinking styles
Myers Briggs Type Indicators
Katherine Benziger - Thinking Styles Assessment
Enneagram of Personality Types
Howard Gardner: Multiple Intelligence
George Kelly: Personal Construct Psychology
Conscious Competence - Stages Of Learning
Emotional Intelligence - Self awareness in the emotional dimension
Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction
Thich Nhat Hanh
Self Improvement Advice
Immunity to Change
Self Motivation Tips
Additional resources on related themes
The Tao of Change
Nic Askew - Soul Biographies
Eckhart Tolle - The Power of Now
Genpo Roshi - "Big Mind"
Centerpointe Research Institute - Holosync
Michael Brown - "The Presence Process"
Robert Scheinfeld - Busting Loose
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