Dealing with Change
Last weekend, Peggy and I had the pleasure of traveling to New York City to welcome our newest grandchild, Silas Michael. He is simply marvelous — he’s got a great head of red hair and (not that I’m prejudiced) he is just one good-looking baby.
On our train ride back to the Commonwealth, Peggy suggested that I simply have to write a Foray’s blog post about Silas. My initial response was, “I don’t think so,” but the more I thought about our visit and how remarkable our son and daughter-in-law are in welcoming their new addition, it occurred to me that they were modeling great leadership behavior in dealing with change. And given that they already have two sons, 5 and 2 years old, what could be more life changing than adding a third boy? Here are just some of the leadership behaviors I witnessed.
Explaining Roles and Expectations: When change happens, most people are uneasy partly because they wonder what their new roles are and what expectations we have for them. This is understandable; dealing with the unknown can be upsetting. Michael and Becky did a great job of working with the two older brothers, letting them know what they expect from them as “big brothers.” Silas needs to be treated very gently, and we need to be quite when he is sleeping, and so on. More than once, the boys were complimented, and sometimes reminded about their new expectations.
Willingness to listen to others: Let’s face it; we are not the first to have to deal with change. One of things I’ve found helpful when I am faced with a new situation, or with change, is to reach out to colleagues who’ve been through a similar change and talked with them about what they learned. I’ve found this particularly helpful in planning for, executing, and evaluating the change. In a similar way, while we would never give parental advice to our children, we do however provide support for and encouragement in working with their kids. Heavens, the last thing people need while going through change is mixed signals.
It Takes Teamwork: Our visit to New York and being around the grandkids was another reminder for me of why we have kids when we are younger. Watching Michael and Becky balance the responsibilities of a newborn with their existing family was like watching a great tennis doubles team. They had each other’s’ backs and worked in tandem to make the change as seamless as possible. And they did all of this while celebrating Silas’ arrival and helping the boys to feel very much a part of the miracle of new baby brother. One of things that they did so well is anticipating each other’s without having to actually communicate the need. Peggy is really good at this; she sees what needs to be done and gets it accomplished. Me, however? Not so much, although I’m trying harder.
Flexibility: Anyone who has worked with or had children knows that things don’t always work out just as you plan. Any time we go through change, we need to be open to the inevitable twists and turns that emerge naturally. But flexibility must be balanced with not losing sight of your ultimate goal, going with the flow while still having the end in mind. In Where Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson captures this concept very well – he says that flow “is not the singular intensity of focusing ‘like a laser’…. rather, it is more the feeling of drifting along a stream, being carried in a clear direction, but still tossed in surprising ways by the eddies and whirls of moving water.” Michael and Becky modeled this so many times. It’s interesting — babies have one schedule, and that is their own. They not only adhered to Silas’ ever-changing schedule but also expertly addressed the needs of their older boys. This all added up to meeting their overall goal of making sure that everyone in the family feels loved and cherished.
When it comes to managing change, Michael and Becky simply make it work.
Welcome Silas — you’ve got a great family.