‘All change is hard, but we don’t know enough about why it is so hard and what we can do about it.’
In their book, ‘Immunity to Change,’ Kegan and Lahey share their research on why change is hard.
Through working with hundreds of leaders, they have devised a formulation, which they call an x-ray, that shines a light on what is blocking change for individuals and organisations.
There are three elements of this x-ray:
1. What you want to change
2. Your behaviour that sabotages that change
3. Your unconscious commitments
Let me give you an example: this is a fictional example of a leader who has a bold vision.
1. What she wants:
For the organisation to get behind a shared vision and purpose;
To hold employees and partners accountable to the standards of that vision;
To hold her boundaries and create time for strategic development;
To delegate effectively.
2. Her behaviour that sabotages this change
Avoiding tough conversations – communicating by email instead;
Being available all the time ‘because that’s the nature of our work’;
Focussing solely on work and heading towards burnout which is affecting her capacity to lead;
3. Her unconscious commitment
To preserve her sense of herself as the available, likeable problem solver;
To appease and make sure relationships are upheld no matter what;
As a devoted Christian, to always be of service which has meant a sense of mission and sacrifice.
The metaphor of immunity is carefully chosen, because you can see how these unconscious commitments have supported her to be successful in a compassionate profession.
However, there comes a time when this immunity can threaten our continued good health, so we need to alter the code.
True development is about transforming the operating system itself, not just increasing your knowledge or behavioural repertoire.
While it’s useful to explore technical solutions such as how to hold a tough conversation, unless she addresses her unconscious commitments, change won’t stick.
So she has to dig into these beliefs, where they live in her, how they have served her, and begin to release them, in order to create fertile ground and seed what she wants now.
Think about your own x-ray.
What do you want now?
How are you sabotaging yourself?
What are the unconscious commitments that you are ready to let go of?