I believe that inciting change sounds exciting. But the reality of influencing or making change is much different.
Making things even worse, those who remember (but weren’t involved in) change sometimes don’t always get the story right. They forget the indifference, the resistance, and the opposition. They recall harmony and ease, not frustration and lack of support. As a result, there’s a chance that you might feel like you’re not doing things right if you find creating change isn’t all that satisfying.
Bringing to a community fresh approaches or restoring time-tested ones that have been forgotten is what you do when you feel a calling, not to win man’s (or woman’s) approval.
As background, my past projects have involved instigating the start of a new casual worship service; reinvigorating the strategic planning process (that had been dormant for more than 10 years) and leading a team in creating a strategic plan; and structuring and launching a small group ministry.
My Approach: Listen, Talk, and Pursue Fresh Insights
One way I get things done is by listening, understanding what other people really want and need, and rallying the right ones for a project. Generally, I place the most trust in people who are taking action in getting things done and less on those who talk but don’t act. But, anyone is welcome to come along for the ride. Some stick around to see ideas come to fruition; others exit quietly.
Some projects have taken a tremendous amount of thought, effort, and intrinsic motivation. I’ve leveraged my past experiences at the same time I’ve sought new insights. Here are things that helped:
- pray for direction and ask for prayer from others for the project
- attend seminars
- pick the brains of those who have worked with such programs or tangential ones in the past
- read books on relevant topics
- present ideas in various stages to get feedback and buy-in (these presentations may be informal and given to those who have a stake in a program as well as formal and presented to those who must give approvals)
- get reactions from and calm nerves of those who are concerned about change
- push forward with minimal encouragement
What I Learned: Change is Mostly Uncomfortable
Doing something new usually doesn’t feel good until the new thing is in place. If you’re trying to get a project or program going and aren’t sure whether you are on the right path, here are a few emotions you might be experiencing:
When I was talking to my teenage son about leadership, he was reminded of a quote from Jesus Did It Anyway: The Paradoxical Commandments for Christians that resonated with me. “People favor underdogs but they follow the top dog.” I don’t think people realize how much they side with the conventional even as they lobby for change.
Though people say they want certain changes, very few people want to be a part of causing change until they are certain of a successful outcome. So, you may leading alone until you can produce results.
When you are starting something new, there’s not a road map for getting things done. So, you might try a number of different approaches before anything good happens.
You’ll also hear from a lot of people who want to get involved; but only a handful of them will have the resolve, desire, and free time to work diligently alongside of you, especially if they are not assured of a sure win.
You may be misunderstood, ignored, and possibly criticized when you start something new.
As you push forward, you may have to make some minor adjustments; later people will wonder why some element (that you fought for but couldn’t get included) is missing. Get comfortable with the idea that your project may fall short of ideal.
Knowing that you are a player in achieving positive change is gratifying, even if no one notices and understands what has been accomplished.
Surprise Learning: While Inciting Change, You May Be Changed
After inciting change, I’ve had time to reflect on the process, its challenges, and its rewards. Here are a few things I learned:
- God works because of who we are and what we do (so be your genuine self and use your God-given talents)
- God makes things happen despite of who we are and what we do (keep your sense of humor because your shortcomings will be revealed; also, you may be surprised at the people who get involved in your project)
- How you treat people as you pursue a project is way more important than any results you achieve (so never shortcut your processes or compromise your integrity just to accomplish a task)
- You will change as you pursue goals and get things accomplished; the transformation that happens as a result gives you the insights, perspectives, capabilities, and emotional resilience to achieve more
Does starting something new get easier? I think it does. I’ve been able to estimate the time commitments required to pull off a major project and put more effort into gathering information earlier rather than later. The same emotions of loneliness, etc. appear but I’ll cycle through them faster and won’t let them scare me. I can laugh at setbacks, and then put together a plan B. And I’ll anticipate surprises that show me how to fit things together, not in an entitled way but an expectant one.