Scene 1: Our air conditioning repair man Luigi was just telling me how he caught his wife painting their bathroom red, just after he had just painted it white (over the red it used to be). He smiled, while clearly still irritated: “I love her dearly but she drives me crazy. She is a free spirit and I am anal retentive.”
Attraction to people who, on some core dimensions, are very different from us is commonplace. So it seems quite paradoxical, that many of us combat the very differences in our partner, that we once found attractive.
Scene 2: Allied Engineering, a large bureaucratic firm, acquires upstart Stevens Tech to streamline its IT processes and systems, in order to more quickly respond to its customers in real time. Stevens however never gets the chance; upon integration, Allied forces Stevens to adopt Allied’s procedures and systems, thus preventing Stevens from accelerating Allied’s customer response time.
Completely illogical, yes? Completely common – absolutely! Research shows that the majority of integrations fail, not because of finances or legal ramifications, but as a result of this inherent resistance to change. Clearly, this ambivalence to change needs to be identified and addressed prior to the integration.
How do you understand this paradox? Do you see it in other organizations? in your own life?
Body sculpting can be incredibly illuminating when it comes to understanding one’s experience of change. When I was working with a group of senior leaders who were facing a major leadership change, I had the sense that there was a lot of resistance about the change itself, most of which had gone undiscussed. While the next agenda item was to make important implementation decisions related to the change, my intuition told me the team was not ready. There were too many feelings left unaddressed. But these feelings were clearly not easy for them to articulate.
So I asked these leaders to show the group how they felt about the change by creating their own personal body sculpture. One had one foot stepping into the change, one foot outside of it. Another had trouble balancing. Several were leaning backward but trying to force themselves forward. Another couldn’t quite demonstrate her position because she felt she was floating above the change untethered.
Once these leaders depicted their experience through their bodies, they were able to identify and explore their feelings. By naming these feelings as a result of the sculpting, and being heard by other team members, they were ready to then move ahead to implementation issues. Body sculpturing can help circumvent the mind and elicit data through the body.
How ironic that the very messages we learn growing up about being a “good soldier” and staying positive, can actually impede the initial stages of the change process. Simply sharing concerns and feelings about loss and betrayal (when heard nondefensively) help team members go from disheartened to optimistic, often leading to constructive teamwork, decision-making and implementation.