Change and Growth

Passion and priorities are the best guides for deciding how to cope with change.

The Sagamore Resort Hotel on Lake George, NY, is more than 120 years old and on the National Historic Register, but it is also a vibrant metaphor for our modern times and the change they demand. Passing through the gates, it feels as though you’ve stepped back into the 1890s, when a gleaming white, four story wood frame hotel would not have seemed so extraordinary and vintage. Yet everything in the hotel, from the audiovisual equipment to the room amenities, is testament that the old hotel has changed dramatically over the years, adapting to the 2000s and far beyond.

I was at the Sagamore to speak to a group from the American Automobile Association (AAA) of New York, an organization that has had to change significantly to stay viable. For more than a century, AAA has been synonymous with automobile travel. For years, the company was the best personal guide to auto travel available, and for most of its history, it has had no competition.

But today, oil companies and upscale automotive companies have their own roadside service plans, and for $.99, you can buy a software program that will print out the fastest or most scenic route between locations at the touch of a button. The need to modify, adjust, and adapt at AAA has never been more important. As such, members now can create its Trip-Tiks online.

Change on an individual level has never been more important either. Everywhere I go, trainers are working to figure out what changes are needed and what resources are available to help. Perhaps the first question to ask is: What are you doing for new input? Charlie Jones, a friend of mine, used to say, “You and I are the same today as we will be five years from now except for the books we read and the people we meet.” I like to include CDs, DVDs, MP3s, videos, seminars, and conferences in that wise statement. If we keep doing the same things in the same way, we’ll get the same result. Working harder to experience more of the same isn’t going to gain us any advantage, either.

In previous columns I’ve suggested some books to begin reading on the fundamentals of training and development, but what about other types of information resources? What do best-selling business books have to tell us about how the world is changing? How about the latest issue of Psychology Today? Recently, cover stories on major magazines have cropped up on the brain and how we learn. These are just a small slice of the wide array of information opportunities available to help us improve not only our training skills, but also our understanding of the world.

Our customers are also fertile ground when thinking about change. I constantly ask the people I work with in seminars and conferences what else they need to be effective. Most of my new books, programs, conference presentations, and Training Mag Network group and other materials are developed in direct response to those needs. So how do you go about changing? These suggestions may prove helpful:

  1. Go after changes you feel passionate about. The more emotion you experience, the easier change is likely to be.

  2. Don’t try too many changes at once. Implementing one or two changes in your life effectively is much better than attempting 12 and succeeding at none.

  3. Be patient. It takes time for new habits to form and for results to be seen.

Change is a constant fact of life. Those who accept change are better positioned to succeed than those who resist it. It’s that simple. I learned this on a mission trip to Kananga, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in July to teach 1,200 pastors to “Lead Like Jesus.” Each morning, we had a meeting for a team update. Virtually every morning, there was a change to the schedule or the plan or resources available.

One change took place shortly before the trip— funds could not be raised to print the entire “Leadership Encounter with Jesus” workbook, so I had to reduce 88 pages to six. (And with subsequent changes that happened “on the ground,” it was a good thing—it would have been impossible to cover even one-third of the workbook!)

The next change shortly after arriving was to find that there was no venue large enough for all the pastors, so I needed to do two sessions a day. Then we found that I couldn’t use any of the PowerPoints or videos that had been translated from English to French because of technical challenges. I had been prepared for consecutive translation, but then learned that my presentation would be translated twice—first to French, then to Tschiluba (one of DRCs national languages) —so the amount of content that could be covered was reduced. Part of my initial internal reaction was to be upset that I could not deliver the content in the very best way—the way I knew would help pastors gain the greatest benefit. But then I thought, “I can focus on resentment and have a pity party or I can do the best I can with what’s available.” And that became my focus: What’s the best I can do with what is available?

The two weeks in Kananga ended up being a true blessing for both me and the pastors and others I served. I believe part of the reason was my willingness to change and adapt when necessary.

So what are you doing to grow, change, and stay relevant? I’d love to hear from you—and I welcome any thoughts or comments on this column. E-mail me at Until next time—add value and make a difference!

Bob Pike, CSP, CPLP FELLOW, CPAE-Speakers Hall of Fame, is known as the “trainer’s trainer.” He is the author of more than 30 books, including “Creative Training Techniques Handbook. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook using bobpikectt.