Forgiveness is a key to Progress
Like many change agents, I’m infatuated with better. My eyes are always focused on what’s next and I rarely celebrate what is. In fact, when it comes to evaluating the present, I spend most of my time recognizing what’s wrong, what needs to change. At times in my work, I’ve found myself so overwhelmed by what’s wrong that it was hard to find energy to start the process to make things better.
This frustration can often lead to questions like:
- How in the world did we get here?
- Why hasn’t something been done sooner?
- If no one cared enough about all of these issues before now, how can change even have a chance?
These are tempting questions and, if you aren’t careful, they can burn up your time and motivation to tackle this important work. The conclusion that I arrive at was that these questions don’t matter.
In the business of driving change, one of the commonly overlooked tools is forgiveness. Change is about progress, about the future. It’s not about the past. In order to place a spring board beneath yours and the organization’s feet when it comes to change, you need to forgive the past. It’s likely that we arrived where we are today because of good intentions and perhaps just a series of little steps that seemed harmless individually. Letting go of how we got here frees up all of your energy to focus on where to go next. This isn’t to say that you can’t or shouldn’t study the past for information, just that you don’t place any judgment on the information as you examine it.
Forgiveness is also powerful when it comes to change management. People are going to resist change, that’s just how we are wired as humans. Every single one of us does it. It’s just that some of us move through the change acceptance process a lot faster than others. So, forgive people for immediately loving your change. Forgive them for grieving the loss of the old way, and give them room to accept the new.
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