Making Personal Changes is like crossing a bridge

HAPPY NEW YEAR!  What a great start we’ve made to re-inventing ourselves in 2014. We are now embarking on chapter 9 of Robert E. Quinn’s Deep Change: Discovering the Leader Within. What do you think so far about making these personal changes? Is it what you thought it would be like? It never is! If you are truly making the changes that this book recommends, you may feel a bit unsettled about now. You may feel like you are walking on shaky ground and not as steady on your leadership feet as you thought. I felt that same way when I read this the first time (and the second time!)
“Organizational and personal growth seldom follows a linear plan” (Quinn, 1996, p. 83). If you thought you had a vision for what this process would be like: it turns out that you probably had a plan, BUT NOT A VISION. A vision is bigger than a plan and leaves room for some special paths to be explored that maybe you didn’t consider up front. Having a plan is rather concrete and defining; and while a plan may feel stable and secure, it can also limit you in your options and narrow your scope of what you are willing to explore.

A plan is a definite decision and very narrow. Here are some examples of plans:

  1. Conduct leadership training that will teach my leaders how to coach.
  2. Change our monitoring standards so that the standards are clear and easily understood.
  3. Alter our performance plans so that they are easier and less time consuming.

These are all great examples of a plan. But what is the bigger vision behind these plans?

The vision might be to make my leaders’ jobs easier so they can spend more time coaching or the vision could be redesigning some of the most time consuming tasks that my leaders are responsible for doing. When the vision is bigger, you allow yourself room to get lost in other possibilities. When you have a plan you are limiting the scope of what you are willing to examine and change. With a plan you might be missing the greatest nugget that will yield the greatest return on your investment. Sometimes you have to be willing to build the bridge as you cross it. Are you willing to venture out with a vision and develop the plan as you go? This is the true definition of being visionary. So if you are a visionary leader, are you willing to venture out and wonder if the bridge will hold you?

Are you a planner with a bridge that looks like this?

Suspension bridge that defines your destination

Or are you a visionary with a bridge that looks like this?

The jungle bridge of a visionary

Are you a visionary that may need to build the bridge as you cross it?







To cross this kind of bridge takes a different kind of courage and tenacity than to cross the first bridge. The first bridge is established, well worn and reliable. We trust the path so much that we don’t even think about it as we are crossing from here to there. When we come across the second bridge, we immediately consider not crossing it and we may start considering new paths to take. When you come to the second bridge, you feel hesitant and wonder if this is the ‘right path’. But sometimes the unsteady bridge is the ‘right way’. It is the path that you have an opportunity to make better and stronger. It is a bridge that takes concentration and focus. It also takes communication and teamwork to effectively (and safely) cross it with others. This is the bridge that may require some additional maintenance and restructuring in order for you to make it better. When you come across this bridge, you do not have an option but to stay on guard and consider every step that you make. True personal change is like the second bridge, not the first one. As you embark on deep personal change, you must be willing to build the bridge as you cross over it.

“Tackling deep change and facing a new future, we must be willing to get lost with confidence. This confidence, along with tenacity, will guide actions as we begin to build the bridge toward our vision. It is only when we experience deep change that the new vision comes into view. When we can actually ‘see’ our vision, we must be willing to put it into action” (Quinn, 1996, p. 86).

Seeing our vision is important, but being courageous means putting your vision into action. Have you been cross the first bridges all the time? Isn’t it time to look for the second kind of bridge? That is the bridge that will force you to take the path toward personal change. Enjoy the journey!


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