Two Points to Take Note Of…

No great change happens without conflict.

Not one.

And every great conflict generates resistance.

Every time.

So, since you know both things, decisions should be comparatively easy to make about change.


Dissatisfaction Times Vision Times First Steps Must Be Greater Than the Resistance

The equation that drives change is simple:

Dissatisfaction times Vision times First Steps must be greater than the Resistance to the impact of all three combined or else change efforts falter.

There are plenty of dissatisfied people in your workplace, your work group, or even just your organization.

There are people who insist that providing negative feedback is the only way to encourage organizational growth and they provide it liberally.

There are people who have been dissatisfied for years in your organization; who have made brief, or even faltering, attempts at change, but have been stymied and have now surrendered.

There are people inside your organization who claim they are dissatisfied, but who are mimicking the sounds of dissatisfaction as a political power move to angle for a better position at the organizational table.

There are people with vision in your workplace, your work group, and your organization. But this vision is hazy, or they are easily distracted by the next “hot” leadership initiatives, or their vision can be compromised with just a little more money or promotion.

There are people who take first steps and attend training, workshops, and seminars.

They read books and articles, combing the internet for advice and guidance about how to overcome the organizational ennui that holds back change.

There are people who take the same first steps, but their enthusiasm doesn’t go anywhere.

They stop at memorizing the “how-to” listicle and when trying to apply the emotional jujitsu against the resistance in their organizations, they experience limited success.

But these elements, dissatisfaction, vision, and first steps, must be greater than the sum of the organizational resistance to them. Or else, the changes that you are seeking inside of your organization, your work group, or even the team that is inside your sphere of influence, won’t happen.

The resistance to change is pernicious, persistent, and it never gives up. The resistance to change is sneaky and sly and sometimes comes in the form of well-meaning people and situations that appear as though they are helping your cause of change when in reality they are hurting it.

No great change happens without conflict. And no great conflict can happen without the resistance being overcome.

And if you think that it can, then you are bound to wind up stuck in the same place of dissatisfaction where you initially began your change journey.

Change Comes Upon Us Gradually

Change comes upon us gradually.

Change comes in our organizations when we hire one person, and then two, and then more, who think differently about the mission, vision, values, and goals of the organization.

Change comes when the people (or persons) at the top of a hierarchy choose to give up their power over and engage in power with; and, not as a marketing ploy or with lip service.

Change comes when a person in an organization, decides to take a risk, stand up, challenge the status quo respectfully, firmly, and consistently.

Change comes when technology creeps into systems that we once believed were sacrosanct, but are now revealed to be hollow.

Change comes when we are lamenting the things that have passed and are looking with fear at the future that has yet to come.

And then, change is upon us all at once.

And we collectively can’t remember a time when the change wasn’t the norm.

Change One Percent at a Time if You…

…don’t have the courage to confront the ongoing, unresolved cultural conflicts and frictions in your organization.

…if the resistance to change at scale from the organization and even individuals is too hard to address.

…if your fellow employees who should be your allies, cannot be motivated because of internal, intrinsic factors that you can neither understand nor appreciate.

…if you are struggling with explaining to yourself how you continue to “fit” in the culture you’ve become used .

…if you attend in-person trainings, read books, try new methods and techniques, and still nothing changes.

…if you think that you have been patient long enough for change.

…if you have given up on changes happening and are now comfortable and familiar with the lip service that the overall organizational culture pays to change.

Then, you might be ready to take the courageous, risky step of changing the culture that you are in one percent at a time.

Change, driven internally by friction and conflict, always happens slowly at first (sometimes taking years) but then arrives all at once, to everyone’s surprise in your culture.

Seeing is Not Believing

Many times, at the intersection between human behavior and true innovative change, seeing is not believing.

Or maybe that’s hearing…

This often happens when the information we are confronted with about a coming future, doesn’t match with the information we have chosen to believe in the immediate present, about how our current situation should (or ought) to come to pass in the future.

When there is a gap between the information of the future (unbelievable) and the information of the present (believable) human beings choose to believe the information in front of their faces, no matter what the evidence to the contrary.

This happens even more acutely in groups, where the thinking of the team can be pushed, developed, molded and influenced, by reinforcing considerations that were original in the past; in spite of changing current circumstances.

More and more, the hard work of the future lies in having the self-awareness and courage to adjust your mindset when information comes in that is contrary to what you previously thought.

However, this can be daunting if you’re emotionally committed to building a business based on this information, building a family based on this information, or even building a culture or society.

Little things that seem big (changing your mind in the face of future information) are similar to the rudder of a ship: They seem small and obvious to do, but in reality, they result in the entire ship massively changing course.

Course changes aren’t nearly as hard as mindset changes.

[Strategy] The Era of the Chameleons is not Ending Fast Enough

Human interactions, impacted and shaped by the economic, political, and social effects of the Industrial Revolution, used to highly value—and continue to reward—the skills of the chameleon.

You know the chameleon at work.

This is the person at a meeting who, when a person says “This is clearly black in color,” they nod their head approvingly.

This is the same person who, twenty minutes later at the same meeting, when another person offers their color opinion and says, “This is clearly white in color,” they also nod their head approvingly.

Then, a person walks up to them after the meeting that was supposed to be about colors (but was about acquiescence) and says to them, “One person said the color was black. Another person said the color was white. I think that they were both wrong and the color is grey. What do you think?”

And the person, the chameleon agrees that the color is grey.

You know the chameleon at work.

This behavior, this inability to stand up, stick out, take a stand, or state an opinion, for fear of being fired, flattened down, or left out, was a critical management benefit of our past Industrial Age. It was a function of a work culture based in top-down, command and control directions and the presence of a lone voice of authority to whom to appeal. This behavior was rewarded with promotion, bonuses, and extra trips. This behavior was so regular and so pervasive that it was lampooned by comedians; it lay at the core of televised situational comedies; and it was studied by psychologists.

Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell the chameleons that currently in the workplace, the color is neither black, nor, white. It isn’t even grey anymore.

The dominant color of change, conflict, and innovation is plaid.

And when a chameleon must adjust to the presence of plaid—particularly the chameleon at work—it tends to not survive the experience.

The era of the chameleon is ending, but not nearly fast enough.

HIT Piece 08.09.2016

The thing is, we’re not building for the future we want, we’re building for the future we think will keep us the most comfortable.

The thing is, when the status quo is upended by events we did not expect, we react with defensiveness, because our identity is wrapped up in maintaining the status quo.

The thing is, when we anecdotally share ideas of change at a personal level, we are often surprised when those ideas are manifest in someone else’s experiences.

The thing is, when we generalize from the individual and the specific to the group, we make a decision around what matters, and what will scale versus what won’t.

The thing is, we have all been born at the beginning of greatness, the beginning of a revolution, not coming in at the end, and because we’re at the beginning, rather than the comfortable middle, or scary end, we don’t really know what to do.

The thing is, standing on a street corner in NYC, we can watch the world go by and wonder at what will come next; or, we can take this opportunity to build what will come next, for all of those people who are clutching to the past in their behaviors, their choices, and even in their identities.

The thing is…

[ICYMI] Top 5 Workplace Conflict Stories

There are 5 workplace conflict stories that we tell ourselves.

They are based on the five typical stories that people have always told themselves, whether camped around a fire in the woods, or in the dark watching a Hollywood blockbuster.

Except that these stories have different acts, because…well…they happen at work.

  • The Quest story typically describes a hero’s pursuit of an unattainable goal. At work, the words that begin this story are “I worked really hard on this project and now…”
  • The Love story at work typically describes the process of falling in love with an organization, a project or an ideal. At work, the words that begin this story typically are “I really want to get along with everybody, but…”
  • The Revenge story is the one story at work that is typically mixed up with a lot of other stories. And that’s typical because this story tends to permeate most workplace conflicts. At work the words that begin this story are “I know that I was right and here’s why…”
  • The Stranger-In-A-Strange Land story is the hardest to identify at work because this story may hide a passive aggressive Revenge story. Sometimes, the words that begin this story are “I don’t know what anyone else is doing here, but I think…”
  • Finally, the Rags-To-Riches Story (or Riches-To-Rags, take your pick) is the story that comes from entry level and new people in an organization, but to other, more seasoned employees, it can come off as annoying. It typically begins with “I know I just showed up here, but at my last job this happened…”

Thinking about those five stories, how many have you related to yourself (or to others) in order to justify conflict situations and responses in your workplace?

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA

Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:

[Strategy] Innovation and Change

The problem stopping most workplace innovation and change strategies, is that too many people–founders, funders, entrepreneurs, owners, and starters–have thought too little about how they personally and professionally respond and react to a culture built on change and innovation.

Innovation for Human Failure #2

We’ve addressed this before:

You get up and go to work every morning and work with people whom you have developed third level relationships. You are tasked with accomplishing goals that may have little to no meaning for you. And in exchange, you are compensated with pieces of paper with the pictures of deceased leaders on them.

Then, changes happen (or innovation arrives), both internal and external and you are required to manage the change, manage the disruption you feel about the change and manage the responses and reactions of the other people who are impacted by the change.

In exchange for expending the emotional labor required to do this successfully, sometimes you are recognized and rewarded in ways that matter to you. Sometimes you aren’t. Too many organizations are still led by managers, teams and supervisors at the middle management level who think “Well, you got a paycheck this week. So that’s good enough.” Even worse, many of those same organizations were founded, funded and continued by people with the same Industrial Revolution, Henry Ford mindset.

Some of this is mindset is changing, no doubt.

With the work that human resource researchers, behavioral psychologists and organizational experts are doing throughout the world, the workplace is gradually shifting. As we noted in a workshop that we facilitated the other day, we are all collectively exiting the hangover remaining from the Industrial Revolution.

Innovation for people and organizations, true innovation, will require founders, funders, entrepreneurs, owners, and starters, to turn the corner on two corrosive mindsets that remain, leading to all kinds of conflicts, both internal and external:

We have to stop thinking of innovation as an imposition.

People, whether employees, supervisors, managers or executives, are not prone to behaving in change-oriented ways. Because of our biology, reinforced through work, social and personal cultures, we are inclined to favor the least amount of resistance (or friction) possible. This response, of course comes from the flight and fight parts of our brains. We rationalize these responses in many different ways, but for the most part, people tend to view innovation they did not initiate as an imposition, rather than as an improvement.

We have to stop making change a “value container” for our personal issues.

People make judgements and rationalize their responses to changes in many different ways, but the biggest way is that people determine that change is really a verdict on past decisions. Specifically, an indictment. This pre-conceived judgement comes from the idea that “what came before must have been bad.” This type of thinking paralyzes people in endless meaningless arguments about the validity of past decisions, closes people off to determining how the material fact of change can be integrated into the present circumstances, and blinds people with fear about what other changes the future may hold.

Innovation and change are merely stories, told by people desiring a new narrative.

Innovation and change always comes with conflict and conflict is an incubator of change.

Without founders, funders, entrepreneurs, owners, and starters doing the hard work of laying the groundwork of wellbeing, strengths based leadership, emotional intelligence, and conflict engagement skills training in their cultures from the beginning, organizations will continue to find it difficult to innovate.

Even as the waves of external changes, buffet them back and forth across the blue ocean of business.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:
HSCT’s website:

[ICYMI] Organizational Climate Change – Part 2

Anthropogenic is a big word that basically means, “the fault of human beings.”

When we look at organizations built by human beings, from families to governments, there are a lot areas where anthropogenic issues combine to create a negative, toxic conflict climate.

And since conflict is a process that never really ends, there are only two kinds of environments that it can happen in, nurturing or harmful.

We all know what a harmful environment looks like, but a supportive, cooperative environment, where conflicts can happen and not leave traumatic scars that carry over into other aspects of our lives—well that’s the Holy Grail isn’t it?

Anthropogenic conflict climate change starts with disrupting the internal focus around an ancient resource that many people lust for deep in their hearts, but no one knows how to define.

Innovations around power tend to focus on redistributing the detritus that arises from the resource—such as wealth, social control or political influence—without ever really addressing the power itself.

There’s gotta be a better way…

Originally published on January 27, 2015.

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