The Next Food Network Star is one of the few television shows my wife and I watch. In each episode, the contestants are subject to a challenge where they need to demonstrate both camera and cooking skills, and at the end of each show one of them is eliminated from the competition. The last one remaining at the end of the series will become the network’s next “food star”.
This past week’s show involved the contestants hosting a dinner party where the famous chef Wolfgang Puck would be in attendance along with all the regular judges. Jyll, one of the contestants, presented risotto. Mr. Puck did not like this dish, so in the middle of this dinner party, with all the judges and other contestants, he takes Jyll back to the kitchen to give her a cooking lesson about how to make a proper risotto.
This was, understandably, quite an embarrassing and traumatic experience for poor Jyll, but I would wager it came with one benefit – she will know from now until the end of time how to make risotto.
No Pain, No Change
Unless a person is operating outside of their comfort zone, there is likely little change going on. Change involves destruction of the old and making way for the new; not a pleasant process. Some now claim that how our brain is wired makes change painful.
In addition, there are studies that have been done that show that when we are in heightened emotional states we have higher memory retention. This is what happened to Jyll. This is what happened to my grandmother, who lived some formative years under the Great Depression. She was frugal ever since, as were many in her generation. The pain of that era caused changes that lasted a lifetime.
Any of us Finance and Treasury professionals that were around in 2008 went through a painful and stressful time that will likely make an imprimatur on our professional activities for our entire careers.
Remember You are a Nuclear Power
Nuclear reactions can be used two different ways: productively, like a nuclear power plant, or destructively, like a weapon of mass destruction.
Productive use of nuclear power is characterized by a controlled and contained reaction.
Destructive use of nuclear power is unleashing the uncontrollable reaction.
Managing organizational change is analogous – for our employees and us to grow, change and evolve, they and we will need to be at times uncomfortable, anxious, depressed and hopeless.
If we control and contain this process, then people’s discomfort, anxiety and pain will operate somewhere between acutely boiling to a low simmer, not staying long at any one setting.
If we unleash the process, they are boiling non-stop.
One Person at a Time
I do not believe there is a single development and growth recipe for everybody. Some can be pushed hard and seemingly be ready for more, and some the slightest nudge can almost be too much.
There is no substitute (that I have found) that will make the task any easier than consciously sitting down and thinking – hard, and often - about each individual you are leading, where they need to develop and grow, and how might be the best way to get them there…and then talking with them about it in an open and honest way.
Is it Worth It?
The consequences to the alternative - playing it safe, staying in the zone of comfort - are that our employees and we will not evolve with our times and organizations in a meaningful way, and we will contribute less and less value and move to the sidelines of the playing field. We do not want to place ourselves in a position where we are encouraging and producing an excellent buggy-whip function.
Is that painful enough to do something about?
PS – Congratulations to Jyll who was able to tolerate her experience and handle it in a manner such that she was able to move on to another week of the show, cooking skills enhanced and everything!
PPS – I do not believe this is the only method of change. Is it possible to change without the negative feelings and all that? Yes. Is it always possible? No. The perspective offered here in this particular blog should be considered as “just one turn of the kaleidoscope” and not an absolute, 100% pure belief on the part of myself.
I would love to hear your thoughts about this view of the role of pain in change or your stories on this topic if you have them.
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Thanks for stopping by the Treasury Cafe!