How To Affect Change

It is all about the journey, exposure, and knowledge

I recently volunteered for the Transgender Information and Empowerment Summit (TIES) which was sponsored by Equality Virginia. This is not a typical event that I would have normally been a participant, but it is good to venture out from one’s comfort zone. I am glad that I did. My understanding for the challenges and experiences of transgendered individuals is certainly greater, and I feel that I am able to operate from a position of greater empathy.

One of the sessions that I found to be the most helpful to my own learning covered ways in which we could become allies for the trans community. Our speaker, Roey Thorpe, focused on three items for change: journey, exposure, and knowledge. She especially emphasized the point that people do not respond well to statistics and data when confronted with change or potentially challenging topics such as LGBT issues. In many ways, this is true for managing change in general.

When guiding change, we must have an understanding of the context for personal journey. Issues and challenges that are presented at a human-centered level can allow for an increased assimilation of knowledge. For example, James Parrish, Executive Director for Equality Virginia, could have related percentages of injustices against the trans community or other compelling statistics about life on the margins, but his ability to relate advocacy work within the political realities of Virginia in a positive, forward outlook was far more effective. In a later session, three courageous individuals spoke of their experiences of coming out in the workplace. Their stories show that they have an innate ability to adapt to change and overcome adversity. Clearly, these are traits any employer should value, and these individuals demonstrated this through their own narratives.

How else can journey models be applied to change management? I have been working towards leveraging our information systems to drive more efficient operations. We do not always support the freestyling worker and change agent. Our culture and context often prefers structure, familiarity, and tradition. Even adopting project management principles requires choosing carefully how to communicate new initiatives. As a result, I have spent too much energy focused on my frustrations instead of realizing the vision in other ways. Having a greater appreciation for others’ journeys will help to build solutions that can be supported.

The experience of journey and narrative seems to be an effective tool for preparing others for change. Of course, data and information appeal to me because they are the building blocks for the story. However, they are just another layer in the stack. To truly reach others that can also be change advocates, I have to be able to tell a compelling story for why our lives will be better for adopting change. It is not enough just to implement.

My professional challenges do not compare to those of the trans community. However, the strategies used to grow understanding for trans issues seem to be ones that can be employed in other situations. Solutions must be relatable, and they have to be compelling enough to drive others to participate within the creative process in order for learning and growth to occur.