3 Methods for Lasting Change We Can Learn from Jesus
There are many things we can learn from Jesus even if we are not Christian. One important lesson is how to be a change agent for our teams, organizations, or communities.
The ability to lead change is a key competency of any leader and that is especially true today with the speed and frequency of change. According to Fortune Magazine, only 12% of the Fortune 500 companies in 1955 are still on the list today. Why? One reason is the inability to adapt to change.
There are three methods that we can learn from Jesus with will enable any of us to facilitate change. I chose the word facilitate carefully because it is not about controlling. It is about offering options which provide the greatest benefits and which will generate the best results. A facilitator makes things clear and shows the way. It is then up to others to make the choice to follow. There is no force nor are there threats to create followership.
Method 1: Identify a Small Group of Committed People
Don’t try to change everyone. Find a small group of committed, well connected, and credible people who can help you communicate your very clear and compelling message of change. This idea was clearly articulated in the book the Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell. (Gladwell, 2000) Jesus did this with his 12 apostles. Even Jesus couldn’t save everyone because we all have free will. Judas didn’t make it even though he had an inside seat.
Method 2: Offer Evidence and Understanding to Those Who Doubt
I find the “four stage model” for change useful. The four stages in a change process are:
- First, we start out in comfort with how things are. There is no need for change.
- The second stage is denial. This is where everything that is not working is someone else’s fault. “There is no need for me to change because the conditions just don’t justify it.”
- The third stage is anxiety. This is where we know we need to change but we are unsure if it is possible. We may feel shame or embarrassment that we messed up and we can feel depression. Sometimes we avoid feeling depressed and stay in denial. It is normal to move back and forth between denial and anxiety especially if the change we are being asked to make is a big one.
- The final stage is insight. This is where we try something new to address the desired change and it works. This gives us hope that we CAN make the change and it is working. This is the positive feedback stage.
Providing those who are in denial and anxiety with empathy, understanding (love) and data helps them to get the insights they need to make the changes.
Jesus had big advantages with the miracles performed. We don’t necessarily need miracles to help people move through the four stages (although it would help). We need empathy, clearly articulated benefits, and data for all those in denial and anxiety. Thomas doubted Jesus’s appearance to the apostles after the resurrection. Thomas wanted data and Jesus provided it.
If we can support those who are doubtful and give them an opportunity to demonstrate the new behaviors, provide them clear data (Thomas put his hand in Jesus’s wounds) they may be willing to make the change. It requires support, fortitude, and emotional intelligence to make the change work.
Method 3: Create a Ritual
Jesus created the ritual of the bread and wine to help everyone remember him and His word. To help people remember the clear messages and the benefits we need a ritual. Find one, create it and stick with it. I encourage clients to use morning huddles to reinforce the values of the organization. This frequency of reinforcement is like a ritual that reminds everyone they made a choice, it is working, and it is benefiting them personally.
Other rituals that reinforce positive change include:
- Consistently facilitating agreements with people instead of telling them what to do.
- Looking for processes that need improvement and delegate the “fix” to the staff instead of doing it yourself.
- Hold more frequent huddles and communicate how organization is doing, express appreciation for all the excellent work, and tie the results to the change initiative.
Jesus was an excellent change agent. If we can apply his methods we can become profound change agents too.