“Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes. Turn and face the strange.”
Cool song. Good way to describe navigating changes. David Bowie knows that change and strange not only rhyme but are also connected. If a leader wants to lead change, he is leading people into a place that is strange.
Ultimately, that’s what leaders do. I’ve heard the term “change agent” kicked around; and that definition works for me. I don’t know a lot of leaders who are applauded for “keeping everything exactly the way it was” before he/she started.
Just a reminder, I wear two hats in my life. I’m a father of a one-year-old, Evie and husband of my beautiful wife, Mary Kate– that’s my family hat. Then I’m also the shepherd-leader (change agent!) of the student ministry team at my local church– that’s my church hat. Obviously, this idea of making changes is going to apply more to my student ministry side; but, before I get started, let me also say that I really think Orange Dad exists for me (and other parents) to change the culture of parenting. Somehow, we’ve got to get back to the most basic fundamental truth about parenting: our kids need to have a real relationship with Jesus. And, since our culture screams for us to be about so many more less-important things: orange dads and orange moms (parents who partner with the church to reach their kids) need to ALSO be change agents. Turn and face the strange.
So…about this book, “Leading Change Without Losing It” by Carey Nieuwhof. For one, you can buy it (with some inexpensive introductory prices) here. Go, buy it now. We can talk about it later. Also, check out his personal blog, for more content about leading through change.
Carey starts with the question of what do you do when your dream faces resistance and opposition:
For some, that’s it. The dream just dies.
For others, you settle for incremental change (which sucks the life out of the dream).
For many, you just leave.
And then there are those cool “change agents” who lead change successfully.
As Uncle Si would say, “Hey, who do want to be, Jack?”
If you chose option #4, you can keep reading the book. The book is organized into a easy-to-use (and refer-back-to) structure. There are five strategies that Carey introduces about turning a whole group to face the strange. Within each chapter, which is wrapped around that strategy, there are sub-tips, a Biblical reference point (to help us see that he isn’t making this stuff up!), and some thought-provoking questions. Here are the five strategies:
1. Do the math. Calculate who is actually opposed.
It turns out that there is a loud and memorable minority of people who will get in the way of change; and, if we’re not careful to do the math and see the big picture, we could get psyched out before we get going!
2. Choose your focus. Decide whether you will focus on who you want to reach or who you want to keep.
This one is so tough for me. Sometimes I find myself spinning my wheels trying to not loose that one person when, for all intents and purposes, they’re already gone. And, besides, our changes should be motivated by people we aren’t reaching yet. I doubt even 10% of teenagers and families of teenagers in my area go to church. I need to be careful that I don’t allow internal grumbling shift my focus off of that big picture.
3. Find a filter. Develop the questions that will shape your future.
This is a good one. In the midst of the change, you may question yourself (which oftentimes is right to do)– but it’s wise to develop a group of people and a set of questions through which you can process the tension.
4. Attack problems, not people. Help people see you are for them even if you are not for their ideas.
This is easily the toughest for me. And I’m glad Carey was transparent about his struggles in this area too. It made me feel a little less crazy that my inner mafia boss rears his ugly head every once in awhile. I can’t help how I feel when people are opposing my ideas sometimes, but I can always control how I act. So, turning to God and empathizing with others is a huge aspect of this chapter.
5. Don’t quit. Persevere until your critical breakthrough.
The grass always seems greener on the other side. But, Carey discusses in this chapter how, sometimes, on the precipice of the greatest change, it’s going to feel really bad. And that struggle sometimes KO’s a lot of leaders prematurely. But, God is writing this huge story; and how awesome is it to think that we can play a huge part– if we just don’t quit.
I love this book. I read it in one sitting. I’m going to refer back to it frequently over the next few months because we’re going to be navigating all kinds of changes. And, although I’ve read some goodies in the past (“Leading Change” by John Kotter would have been my go-to up until now)– I find Carey’s book to reflect a more “Christian” side to the whole equation with Biblical undercurrents, motivations, and ways of treating people. I easily connected with this more. Leading change should never feel like a manipulative, systematic way to get things done; and I feel like Carey really focuses on the importance of “how” we lead change.
I don’t know if it’s intentional. Probably not. But, I think the title fits in two ways. Obviously, we want to lead change without losing “it,” meaning our sanity. But, I’ve also heard people talk about relational “change.” When we honor someone, we deposit more relational sway or “change” in our pockets. When we dishonor someone, we make a withdrawal from that account. Carey really talks about how to lead change without losing “it,” and it’s possible to also see that as meaning without losing “relational influence and honor.” Double meaning? Probably not. But I thought it was kind of cool of looking at it because it does apply.
So…what are some changes that you are thinking about undergoing, in the midst of, or having just navigated through?