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Learn the New Rules, or Learn the New Game?

When you were a kid, you probably had a few games you cherished as favorites. Chances are your favorite games were the ones you were better at playing, and given the choice, you would prefer to teach someone your game than to learn the new game.

In a lot of ways, we are kids in grown-up clothes. And millions of us in corporate America are facing the same dilemma:

  • stick to the same game?
  • or learn the new game?

By and large, we would rather hold on to our old ways than embrace the new games these fast-changing times have forced onto our respective industries.

“Change is the only thing that is certain.”

It is hard to dispute that nearly every role in business today requires a different set of skills and competency than it did as few as five years ago. Business leaders are not oblivious to this challenge.

However, in an effort to help their teams adapt quickly, leaders often key in on the new rules rather than think about what it takes to master the new game. Herein lies a subtle, yet defining and often debilitating difference in approach.

Consider this: when we change the rules of any game often enough, it essentially becomes a different game entirely. You may be able to understand and even play the new game by learning the new rules, but this alone will not be enough for you to become proficient in the new game. Yes, it is important to learn the new rules, but it is best to first establish the context of the new game.

Leaders regularly place highly trained professionals who take great pride in their performance into new, complex, working relationships with other proud, highly trained professionals. These same leaders then ask that they perform those tasks with a set of skills they didn’t need to learn or use before.

When you consider that this scenario applies to a majority of positions in business today, and toss in our natural human aversion to change, you have the makings of a crisis. In organizations around the country, pride and ego are clashing with fear and ignorance, creating a cacophony of poor performance, miscommunication, stress and inefficiency.

When the New Game Impacts the Culture

When leadership appears more concerned with enforcing the new rules than with helping its team learn to excel in the new game, frustration, bitterness and perhaps even anger become a debilitating part of the corporate culture. We live and work in a time when a large number of American workers have developed a type of authority complex. This scenario may be more prevalent than one might think.

Take heart – it is possible to reverse the negative trend and help workers more positively meet the exciting new challenges that inevitably come with the changing times. A key element in this process is to teach people new perspectives and approaches that will help them accept, and more willingly understand, the new game.

How do you create a culture that is willing to embrace new ideas? It all boils down to the “law of letting go” which simply states: “Our capacity to grow is inextricably linked to our willingness to let go.”

When I work with leadership teams and organizations that struggle with change, (change that is often brought on by external forces), I first teach individuals how to discern the elements of their game that no longer serve them. Then I show them how to comfortably let go of those elements so they can readily adapt to and even embrace the new game. Essentially, you must help take the mind out of the old game and place it in the new game. This shift in mindset is critical to getting a mind to be open to learn the new rules of the new game.

Capacity to Grow

Change can be as difficult as it is necessary. The German philosopher Hegel taught us, “Struggle is the law of growth.” Pain, in my opinion, is an option. Our ability to mature is directly related to the amount of embarrassment we are able to stand as we learn how to become skilled at the new game.

Copyright © Joe Caruso and Caruso Leadership, 2017, All rights reserved. Reprints available with permission

Take the Next Step

How to you get a mind to consider a new notion (i.e. learn the new game)?
Watch Joe Caruso discuss ‘How to influence the mind’ in this brief video.

Need help with Letting Go? Get The Power of Losing Control

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