Moving the Farmstead

My grandma is a fighter and has the proudest of souls. She overcame polio and cancer with quiet dignity. She survived the depression and stood firm during WWII while her husband was in battle. She raised four children in the post-war era while tending a large Midwestern farm and maintaining a professional job outside the home. And following my grandpa’s death, she alone managed her home and affairs for the past 20 years. She is independent, witty, and sharp as a tack.

But as her 90th birthday neared, a difficult set of conversations began to emerge within my family. Her children expressed their increasing concerns for her safety and quality of life. “Mom, you forgot to take your heart pills….this is why you are so confused and weak. I am worried.” “What if you fall again grandma? What if no one finds you?” They also spun the positive, pushing for a move to assisted living: “Mom, think of all of the social activities you would enjoy.” “It would be so simple to get to the hair dresser.” “Won’t you feel reassured knowing that there is healthcare on site?” Her children toured numerous facilities with her, pointing out every possible benefit, but she held firm. Grandma’s home and independence were her last strongholds and she was not walking away.

And then something strange happened. After visiting an apartment in an upscale facility and having lunch with a resident from the Midwest, grandma commented, “You know, I think that framed picture of the old farmstead would look good on that wall.” “Yes, grandma….it most certainly would.”

Change can be difficult, especially when it is not self-initiated. I cannot name one person that enjoys being told what to do. And yet, change is inevitable – especially in organizations. Processes evolve, technology is replaced, and leadership transitions.  According to a McKinsey report, the key benefits that company leaders care about and are motivated by do not tap into roughly 80% of the workforce’s primary motivators. Herein lies a huge flaw in how most corporate change is managed. Leadership tells others why they should embrace change and describe key benefits in their own terms. These stories do not resonate with employees and it “feels” forced. Change must first start by understanding what is important to individuals or populations as well as what is feared. Use this information to craft stories that tap into the right motivators….or better yet…work with employees to help them visualize their own story.

My grandma is motivated by memories and her history…..not by fear of death or convenient personal services. It was key for her to visualize that these recollections of the past – the old farmstead, her grandmother’s dresser, my grandpa’s bowling trophies – would all have a perfect place in a new home. That is her story and she wrote it best.

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