Adjusting is hard. You don’t need me to tell you that. You also know that it is a necessary part of life. Duh! What is weird though is that we (me included) often seem to forget that when we are driving change, assisting leaders to make an impact or advising managers how to change their systems. There are typically hundreds and sometimes thousands of people who are trying to adjust. And remember adjusting is hard.
Used as an intransitive verb adjust means to “to adapt or conform oneself (as to new conditions).” In other words, when things change, one must adjust. Even small changes can necessitate significant adjusting. For example, your wonderful, smart, funny, cute kid is moving on from Pre-K to Kindergarten. Small change?
Kindergarten starts an hour earlier. For the last 12 years, your morning routine has included a 45-minute run. You can no longer run in the mornings, because your spouse does not have a flexible work schedule like you. You think to yourself, “That’s ok. I will just run later in the morning since I have a flexible schedule.” Problem is, your clients need to meet at varying times, so you can’t find a consistent time every day. You only get in three runs in a week.
You start feeling irritable. Running was your time to think, meditate and come up with new ideas. You say to yourself, “Fine. I will run every evening.” The problem is, you and your spouse agreed to alternate cooking nights. You think, “I will just ask her if I can make the kids lunches while she picks up dinner every night. She knows how important running is to me.” You ask. She says, “Yes” and you say, “Great” and it works for a few weeks…until you notice that she is resentful. You wait it out thinking, “Those feelings will change. She loves me and knows how important this is to me.” But the feelings don’t pass, so you ask, “What is going on?” She says, “I feel like I am doing all the work now, and you promised me when we first met you would split all the child care and household duties. You know how important it is for me to feel like we are equal.”
She is right, so you agree to not run every evening. Feeling challenged by the seemingly easy task of getting a 45-minute run in each day, you are perplexed, confused and even angry that something that you consider part of your identity is no longer possible. You feel dejected. You think, “Fine. I will just do three days a week.” A year later, you are not running, have gained 12 pounds, are angry with your wife and swear that you are falling behind at work because your ability to come up with new ideas has been negatively impacted. All of that from a 60-minute change in schedule.
If that can happen from a 60-minute schedule change think of all the things that happen when a school is closed, teachers are evaluated differently, new routes of transportation are created, old job programs and supports are dismantled, and on and on and on.
At UPD, we have and will continue to help people make an impact on the world. That is a given. But are we helping leaders and managers be cognizant of, intuitive about and supportive of the adjusting process? That is what will make those impacts long lasting, successful and positively life (and world!) changing.