Message for President Obama– Lessons Learned about Complexity of Change.

“There are three principles in man’s being and life, the principle of thought, principle of speech and the principle of action. The origin of all conflict between (the leader) me and my fellow-men is that I do not say what I mean, and that I do not do what I say.  This position confuses and poisons … the situation between myself and the other man, and I in my internal disintegration, I am no longer able to master it but, contrary to my illusions, I have become its slave.”

Martin Buber, The Way of Man

Change and leadership is not just about vision, strategy, balancing the budget or reducing the National debt. It is hooking people on ownership, commitment and responsibility to something they believe in emotionally. It is about engaging people both inside and outside an organization in a clear and common sense approach to solving problems and creating new opportunities to create a BETTER LIFE.

Many Americans got hooked on the optimistiism and passion of  “Change We Can Believe In” and

“YES WE CAN”.  After about a year and half of victories, frustrations and continued wrangling in the Senate I recently started to reflect on where are we on the change agenda we voted for in the last election? Here are some of my ideas about lessons learned:

  • Complex change isn’t that simple because at the core it involves conflict,. It is difficult to go from wonderful energetic ideas and words about change to concrete results.
  • Aligning your own party, followers and opponents takes more than awareness that CHANGE IS NEEDED. It takes being assertive to your true values and principles.
  • Best vision, strategy and plans, like Health Care, Financial Reform, Education and Energy etc.,  are not enough to guarantee success for a change agenda. It is people, not plans alone that determine outcomes and results.
  • Maslow was right about the hierarchy of needs–when the people feel a threat to their basic needs for safety and survival they become anxious, angry and often frozen in place clinging to the status quo.
  • Leaders often present logical, rational and right brain change goals but this approach is limited because it by passes the critical emotional elements of  core principles based on values and passion. These elements are  essential to sell and build commitment for change.
  • Vested interest will not let go of their advantages and status without strong pressure from the leader and masses. Peace making is a wonderful value but you need honest brokers on the other side who are committed to the greatest for the great number.
  • Don’t start from a position of weakness and compromise before the negotiations start. You will end up with less than what you want and are open to being seen as “soft”
  • To as successful as you want to be . You must identify sponsors and willing partners for change–From the onset of HC and Financial Services Reform the Republicans  strategy was just say NO.
  • Time is not always on your side–it taks longer to make change happen than anyone usually thinks.
  • More assertiveness and transparency need to be display early and often not just at the end of a confusing and muddled process.
  • Process is important for forging partnerships and yet the end goals should not be over whelmed by the need to be seen as a nice guy or peace maker.
  • A leader’s criteria for change and reform can be dashed from serving as a framework for a strong Reform effort to an instrument of manipulation, stalling, fear and coercion by resisters to change and status quo advocates.

What lessons would you add Mr. President?

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