Last week Michael Hyatt posted a blog entry, “The Primary Difference Between the Wise and the Foolish,” in which he recounts a conversation he had with a business acquaintance. The acquaintance was asking for advice about a difficulty he or she was having at work, but was unwilling to change what they were doing. They spoke as if seeking a solution to the problem, but were more comfortable just complaining. “Ten minutes into the discussion,” Hyatt writes, “I realized I was dealing with a fool. There was no point in continuing the conversation. More talk would not change anything.” It reminded me of a quote attributed to Edwin Friedman, “The colossal misunderstanding of our time is the assumption that insight will work with people who are unmotivated to change” (Friedman, ix).
I often share the sentiment of that Friedman quote with people who are frustrated with someone in their life whom they believe “needs to change.” When they have talked themselves out without seeing any significant change in the other, and have come to me asking what they can now say or do, I will remind them that until that other is motivated to change, their only option is work on themselves. But today I want to look at that from the other side.
Sometimes you and I seek out help. Other times, maybe because we are not the lead pastors, we will receive unsolicited advice from those in our congregations. Often we may feel the need to complain about our situation with a spouse or other confidant, and they will offer advice. Not to mention the times when another staff person or supervisor will share their assistance. How do you receive it? Are you willing to change to make the situation better?
Almost every associate I have ever encountered tells me the ideal lead pastor to work with is a team player. Yet, when I begin to ask them about their ability to adapt to a team, I am surprised at how many are resistant to any suggestion they might need to change. Even when they are frustrated with their situation, some refuse to hear how to improve it. Unmotivated to change, they are, in the words of Friedman, resistant to “insight,” or, in the words of Hyatt,a “fool.”
A workplace culture is not only set by the person at the top (that is the quickest and most effective way, but doesn’t apply to us because we aren’t there). The truth is, whenever a single entity in the system changes, the entire system is changed. This means that you, even though you are not the “top dog,” can make strides toward improving your own situation. This won’t happen because you try to get the other to act more like you want them to, or even through complaining. Any staff member can bring change to their work environment by changing themselves. Do you want more a team environment in your office? Then be a team player. If you want change, you need to be motivated to change yourself and listen to others who may be able to help you with that.
Friedman, Edwin H., editors Margaret M. Treadwell, and Edward W. Beal. A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the age of the quick fix. New ed. New York: Seabury Books, 2007. Print.