More Change

Over 4,000 people read Chris Clarke-Epstein's weekly messages about change. But four lines once a week isn't always enough to express Chris' thoughts about change. This blog will allow her to say more when the inspiration strikes. Sign up for Chris' weekly eletter, Thinking for a Change Eletter: Ideas on Leadership, Teamwork, and Feedback for Smart People Who Dare to Make Change Happen HERE.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Old Habit Die Hard

Change is often hard...especially when the change is about something you've been doing for a long time. If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. Clean your plate. Flush the toilet. Sense a pattern?

We all have behaviors planted firmly in our hearts and minds, reinforced over and over by years of doing. We do these things without one moments thought - they are habits. Whole systems are built around them. Public restrooms for example. For years, architects and builders counted on the fact that you would hear your mother's voice before you exited the stall, reminding you to flush! Worked well, mostly.

Then along came change. Automatically flushed toilets. A novelty at first. (Honestly, they scared the you-know-what out of people the first time they encountered one. My favorite is when they flush before you're done.) But of course, they weren't everywhere so we continued responsible flushing. But as Malcolm Gladwell taught us, there is a tipping point.

Finally there were more automatic flush toilets in public places than the old-fashioned do-it-yourself variety and our habits started to change. Mom's voice was silenced. We expected the flushing to occur without our active participation.

Hence the sign I discovered on the stall door in the public restrooms in the Greenheck Field House in Weston, WI. After trying to figure out why it was there, it dawned on me. The Greenheck Field House, although fairly new, was built before automatic toilets became the norm and is now frequented by people who no longer believe they have an obligation to flush. Problem! Some clever person must have decided that this sign would fill the place vacated by a mother's voice saying, "Don't forget to flush, dear." At least the day I was there the sign seemed to be working.

What I'm working on now is the equivalent for changing that clean your plate message.

On another note, this blog would not have been possible without another big change - phones you carry with you and have cameras built in. If you write a blog that is tied to pictures, more important than American Express, you never want to leave home without your Trio!

Friday, June 30, 2006

Chuckle and Change

Do you have favorite comic strips? I read Hagar the Horrible because I'm of Swedish descent. I like Doonesbury for the political edge. Pickles hits my husband, Frank, and I too close to home some days and I read Sally Forth because Sally, Ted, and their daughter, Hilary just seem like a real family.

Imagine my excitement when a Sunday's full color edition of Sally Forth went like this...

Sally is sitting in a chair listening to Ted who is pacing, gesturing, and talking excitedly.

"I've decided I'm going to make some big changes this spring...I'm going to get the front lawn in great shape. I'm finally going to get myself in great shape...

I'm going to organize the garage, our finances, my life...

And, most importantly I'm going to find a job that I actually look forward to doing each and every day!"

Sally replies, "That's great Ted! So, what's your first step?"

"Reveling," he replies, "in that brief moment between giddy expectation for the future and ultimate disregard for any and all plans."

"Well, you've earned it." Sally comments with a wifely know-it-all grin.

Like all great comics, there isn't more to say.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Change, When You're Two

No two-year-old wakes up in the morning and says, "Mom, I think I need a haircut." I'm not even certain that they're aware of their hair. Oh, maybe if it's too long and gets in the way of seeing - but even then I don't think they'd contemplate a haircut as the solution. No, it's mothers, fathers, grandmas, grandpas, or various other interfering (oops, I mean well-meaning) adults who decide, "It's time for you young man to get a hair cut!"

Elroy, my fair-haired grandson, woke up last Friday expecting a regular day of Thomas the Tank Engine, peanut butter sandwiches, and a nap. Then Ahma (me) and Buppa (Frank) arrived spouting words like haircut, fun, and "Buppa's getting one too," strapped him into his car seat, and headed to Robert Anton & Associates Hair Design to see Stephen.

The walk to the door of a strange place propelled Elroy into two-year-old shy mode. Watching Buppa sitting in the big chair didn't improve the situation. If Elroy had been less well behaved, by the time Frank's haircut was done he would have bolted straight for the door. As it was, he trustingly climbed into my lap, accepted the animal covered cape around his neck, and watched as Stephen started cutting. Elroy began crying - softly at first - but as the haircut progressed, more insistently. For most of his life, adults responded to sign of his obvious distress. This time it didn't seem to be working.

Lots of change is like this. You have hair. You may not even see it as too long. "It's not bothering me," you think just as someone else decides a change is in order. You express your displeasure, nicely at first. No one pays attention until the change is over and you're covered in hair clippings and they're holding up a mirror saying, "Isn't that cute." Actually it's just itchy!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

What's the Fuss?

So, my daughter Miriam and I went to the movie. What movie? you ask. Last weekend there was only one movie that got everyone's attention - The Da Vinci Code. People who hadn't read the book, hadn't seen the movie felt free to comment ad nauseum. I thought I'd see it before I commented and now I have.

I listened to the book on CD shortly after it was released and before it became a big deal. It made a long car trip go by quickly and seemed to me to be an above average mystery. It never occurred to me that people would take its implications for Christianity seriously. ( Actually I never thought it had significant implications for people of faith.) As the books continued to sell, the opinions began to fly - loudly and I got confused. IT'S A NOVEL, I wanted to shout! Why wouldn't you want to use this incredible interest as a way to bring people into your group and discuss its premise and assertions? Why wouldn't you assume that through discussion and dialogue, people's faith could be strengthened? Why not find a way to get on the bandwagon?

Then the movie countdown began and the fury got bigger. Critics panned it, churches decried it, and everyone wanted to see what the public would do.

The final straw, for me, was when I heard that a local group was going to picket the movie here in Wausau. As an ardent supporter of the First Amendment, I support their right to protest as much as my right to see the movie. So we went.

It was a very small group of protesters and probably just a few more of us in the theater - standoff you might say until I read the box office report the next day. 77 million! Evidently the public decided to see it and come to its own opinion. It struck me that this whole thing is another example of how difficult change is. The story, book and movie, is claimed to threaten the very foundations of the Christian faith. Why did people believe that this successful, passably-written, interestingly-filmed, made-up story had that much power? That is change at its most fundamental.

An article in USA Today tells the story of the effort to build a Transcendental Meditation Center in Smith Center, Kansas. To say that many of the residents of Smith Center are conflicted by this change is an understatement. Eric Michner, who is the project manager, was quoted as saying, "This is a traditional, conservative community and fear is probably their first self-defense."

Fear is probably the first self-defense for many of us when it comes to change. It causes people and organizations to act irrationally, lash out, and make decisions without the facts. And, even to forget something is a work of fiction!