‘Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, Turn and face the strange’. In my last job I was (and knew I was) very fortunate to work alongside people who were supportive, encouraging and had a default answer of ‘yes’. The last three years have been a stark reminder that not everyone else is like that!
All of us have experienced significant change in the last two years. But even without the pandemic, whether it’s noisy days or quiet days, change can be unsettling and challenging. We find ourselves turning to face the strange, having to adjust to different ways of doing, being and feeling.
There is a common perception, particularly in the church but it’s not unknown in workplaces and other organisations, that people don’t like change. And while that is undoubtedly true for many (but not all – some of us welcome and, indeed, thrive on it) it is sometimes the case that what people find difficult is not the change itself… It’s the way the change is managed.
One of the traits I regularly observed in my career was the frequency with which organisations underwent ‘a restructure’. Reorganising, changing the way their business operated. Sometimes radically. Other times, simply changing the name of the departments to fit in with a new strategy. And then a few months later, it was all change again. Barely enough time for things to bed down. Real, lasting, effective change and transition doesn’t happen overnight.
You know the feeling I expect, a new person comes in and ‘changes everything’. Or at least that’s the perception – and sometimes the reality, of course. Imposed change increases resistance among those affected by it. Resistance will also happen if people are not involved in both understanding the reasons for the changes and in the process of making them. There will be the included and the excluded, whether inadvertently so or not.
In all the changes I have witnessed and been affected by (and party to) the impact on others was lessened or increased by the effectiveness of how the change was managed – and importantly how it was communicated. Rumour trumps reality every time.
The challenge is whether the management of change is more focused on the achievement of it rather than primarily concerned with the ones who are coping with it. The characteristics of Christ we read about in Philippians 2:5-8 – in particular, those of humility and service – can be helpful in this respect.
St Benedict writes extensively about this also – indeed, in Chapter 7 of his Rule he lays out 12 steps towards humility. He sums up both humility and service in one sentence: ‘If you notice something good in yourself, give credit to God, not to yourself.’
Focusing on the God aspects of our lives (not the me aspects) combined with attitudes of serving others (through listening and clear communication, for example) will enable those who are turning to face the strange to be able to do so without fear and within love.
If you would like a Quiet Day for your church or organisation on the subject of ‘Finding Stability in Times of Change’ please do contact me.