A Modest Proposal: Hire the Unemployed for a Change

terrance seamonBy Terrence Seamon
March 14, 2014

Every organization that I know is looking to improve, to change for the better. Some even want to transform themselves into a high performance organization. At the same time, the success rate of these organizational change initiatives is notoriously bad. As a result, companies want to know: What are the best methods for change management? How does one improve the success of change initiatives?

Who better to help with this than someone from the “front lines” of change? Someone who is a living, breathing veteran of transformation and change?

I have a suggestion. Call it a “modest proposal,” if you will. Businesses should start hiring the unemployed. Let me explain.

The great leadership expert Warren Bennis once defined leadership as the capacity to turn vision into reality. Leading therefore is essentially about change; about making change happen.

Change is a difficult thing for many of us. Change expert William Bridges taught us about the distinction between change and transition. He once said: “So many change initiatives seem to cost too much, take too long, and fail to meet their objectives because they do only half the job. They are change-heavy and transition-light. Change and transition are different, and both are necessary for any significant change to work.”

Job hunters know a great deal about transition. They are referred to as “transitioners.” I even like to say that they are “transitionists,” people who become quite adept at riding the waves of change.

So job hunters, whether they realize it or not, are learning very valuable lessons about what it takes to lead change. If I were to identify three of the skills, I would take a page from the U.S. Marines:

Adapt. Adapting means learning and changing constantly in the face of volatility, uncertainty, chaos, and ambiguity. There are many facets to this learning. Learning about oneself is especially important to job hunters so that they are always growing, getting feedback, and challenging themselves to keep moving. The great scientist Charles Darwin once said, “It is not the strongest or most intelligent that survives, but those most adaptable to change.”

Improvise. Improvising is being quick “on your feet.” To improvise is to creatively generate alternate options. Sometimes on the spot! To innovate and come up with new ways to address the challenges one is facing. Walmart’s Geoffrey Webb says, “No matter how much you plan or prepare, life is improvisation. You can’t predict with 100 percent accuracy what the world will throw at you.” You have to be flexible enough to turn on a dime in a new direction.

Overcome. Job hunters know about overcoming obstacles, including overcoming fear. The great first lady Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

Organizational change expert Roland Sullivan once wrote in a note to me, “The leaders that have a successful way to transform their organizations will win the game.”

Here’s an answer. Hire the unemployed! Day in and day out, job hunters are selling their brand to potential employers with the aim of producing a job offer, turning a vision into reality.

In the process, they are not only learning how to write a great resume or a cover letter or how to give well-honed answers to tough interview questions. They are learning what it takes to wage an intense campaign of change management.

The experts agree that Leaders make change happen.

Today’s battle-scarred Job hunters can make change happen for their next employer.

Terrence Seamon is an Organizational Learning and Leadership Development Consultant.  He is the author of To Your Success! The leader’s guide to engagement, Lead the Way: The Guide for becoming a more engaging leader and Change for the Better: the guide for organizational leaders who are helping people through change to achieve success. For more information about Terrence, consult his website at http://about.me/terrenceseamon.

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