The Intuition Network, A Thinking Allowed Television Underwriter, presents the following transcript from the series Thinking Allowed, Conversations On the Leading Edge of Knowledge and Discovery, with Dr. Jeffrey Mishlove.


JEFFREY MISHLOVE, Ph.D.: Hello and welcome. I'm Jeffrey Mishlove. Our topic today is "Managing Change," both personal and organizational. We live in an era of increasing transition and change, and yet we're not necessarily skilled in dealing with such change. How can we learn the skills necessary to survive and thrive in such an era? With me is Dr. Cynthia Scott, an organizational consultant, clinical psychologist, and president of the Heart Work Group in San Francisco. Dr. Scott is the author of numerous books, including Managing Personal Change, Managing Organizational Change, Take This Job and Love It, and Self-Renewal. Welcome, Cynthia.

CYNTHIA SCOTT, Ph.D.: Welcome. I'm glad to be here.

MISHLOVE: It's a pleasure to be with you. You know, change is all around us, and yet it seems as if one of the most fundamental human instincts is to deny change, avoid change. We get threatened by change; I guess it upsets our homeostasis.

SCOTT: Exactly. We don't like it. I think the first experiment I ever did in change was to ask people in the dorm to use a different toilet and a different sink for a week. People were so upset. We get our little mazeway patterns, we get our little ways that we like to do things, and we get comfortable. So it isn't that you are bad or weak if you resist change; it's very normal.

MISHLOVE: There's something comforting, I suppose, about having a habit, knowing that every day -- it's like rituals.

SCOTT: Well, if you think of much change we're dealing with -- think of the information in the New York Times today; that is the amount of information that a person in the sixteenth century had to deal with in their entire lifetime. So all that onslaught of information -- my grandfather was born when there were no airplanes, and so when I write to him and say, "This is where I've been this week," it's so different for him. We're trying to deal with much more than we ever have before.

MISHLOVE: Well, I realize that it was just a few years ago when nobody had personal computers. Now they're ubiquitous. People a few years ago didn't have VCR machines; now they're everywhere. So we're living in an age of information explosion, communication explosion. Businesses are changing. The professions that were once thought to be -- if you became a certain profession, an engineer for example, you'd be secure for life. Now we see that many people are out of work in these professions.

SCOTT: What people used to think, I think, Jeffrey, was that the safest place you could go to hide from change was the center of these large organizations, like GE or IBM or whatever. And what's been happening is the center has been slowly sinking or being sucked out. The liposuction on middle management in the last ten years has been dramatic. And so there's no more safety in the middle. Safety is now on the edge of the organization. It's at the synapse; it's where this organization meets another organization, and how can you be most helpful to join those things. So when I speak to people about where the safety is -- and I don't think there is any anymore -- if there is any, it's around the edge of the organization. Can you speak two languages? Can you cross-speak between marketing and sales? Are you able to translate? Can you speak to the customer and bring it back inside? Those are the skills that bring safety now, not the center hiding-out skills.

MISHLOVE: It sounds as if what you're saying is that it's no longer enough to be a specialist, that it's important -- when you use the term interface, that means being a generalist, being able to speak many different languages.

SCOTT: Well, if you look at what the Japanese are looking for when they hire new people -- I did some work at the Nissan plant, and they are now looking for people who are willing to learn two to three or four jobs, not just one job as you're saying, the specialist, but being able to switch jobs. And again, it's making them more healthy, in terms of being able to have different kinds of work along their career stream. Most people are going to have four to five different careers in their lifetime. How many careers have you had? I mean, count them.

MISHLOVE: I've certainly had four or five already.

SCOTT: Me too.

MISHLOVE: In fact, this week it seems as if I've had four or five careers. Yet there's this basic human instinct. It's as if our culture is growing in such a way that we have to address our very humanness, in some way. What it means to be human is somehow changing. I mean, we have this notion of prizing our traditions, and I find that when you look at people who proclaim the value of tradition so strongly -- the real orthodox, conservative people -- what they are talking about doesn't even sound really traditional any longer.

SCOTT: I think if you look over history, you begin to see what are the elements of tradition. When you look across cultures, you look at what are the things that still mean things to people. It's family; it is what you say, Jeffrey, I think, tradition, but tradition that makes meaning in the world. It's the notion of coherence. It's how do I find where I fit? How do I know what I mean in this world? What is my job? Why am I? I mean, those are the big existential questions, and I think people are asking them more and more. And in some ways the traditionalist view is, it's simple, the answers are simple. And I don't think they are.

MISHLOVE: One of the things that you point out in your work is that as people confront a situation of change, in an organization or personally, the first stage they go through is a stage of denial -- it's not really happening; this is not happening to me. But then, as they begin to come to grips with the fact that it is happening, they turn inward. They have to deal with it internally, and there they have to come to grips with their own resistance.

SCOTT: Well, not only their own resistance, Jeffrey, but their own loss. You see, it's a grieving process. The denial is very helpful, because you don't have to feel the loss. You can just pretend that it won't happen. Often what I see in companies is productivity goes up, people do the old way real hard, real fast, and it looks real good. So if you're the manager, you walk out on the floor, and you've just said, "We're going to computerize," or, "The new system is coming," or whatever, and you go out the next day, and people are working real well. It looks good. You think, "Great. No problem here."

MISHLOVE: Business as usual.

SCOTT: Business better than usual. Because what people do in the denial is: "If I get real good, they won't see me. They won't come and get me. They'll like what I've been doing." The resistance phase happens when people have been confronted in some way with having to deal with it, meaning you can no longer submit your reports on the typewriter; it has to be on a computer. And the confrontation comes, and what happens is people experience a loss of identity about who they are. If I'm not a typist, well then, who am I, and how do I fit into this changing notion of work? The resistance just breaks loose all over the organization, and what you see as a manager, you see people getting sick, not showing up; you see them breaking things. I mean, the sabotage, the accident level, goes way up in organizations. In one organization I'm dealing with right now, actually, people are kind of smashing their service trucks, but they don't know why. You see, they're really upset and very angry at their loss of who they are. So the resistance is normal. I want to make the point real clear that the resistance is normal. It's not bad or weak people. You have to go through it.

MISHLOVE: In fact, all of the research on stress would suggest exactly what you're saying -- that change of any kind stresses the system.

SCOTT: If you feel you don't have the coping skills. See, stress only comes when you feel like you don't have enough wherewithal inside to do something about it. And then you look at the buffers. One of the things that seems to help people go through change better is that they have either been through it once before and they know they can survive it, or you add skills and give them a greater pillow, if you will, of buffering, so they feel more competent. It could be like a client who I have in my practice who both lost her job at a large bank system, had her husband die in the same month from cancer after a long illness, and her dog get squished. Those are three major changes; I don't know anybody who has enough buffer to get through those three without some assistance. It's a very tough time. You have to see that change hits people in different ways at different times.

MISHLOVE: So what you seem to be suggesting is that when an organization or an individual is going through a major transition, that they allow for the grieving process.

SCOTT: That they even enhance it, and invite it, actually, Jeffrey. Because the organizations I see that heal fastest do something to ritualize the whole grieving process, as you say. It's like when I'm in doing a piece of work with an organization, I run into ghosts. You have to stop and do something. I ran into that a couple months ago when I was with a company, and about four people said, "Well, we still work for this other company." I said, "Did I show up in the wrong place? It's Tuesday; am I in the wrong place?" They said, "No, no we merged, but we never arrived." I said, "Oh, ghost time." I said, "We've got to do something here." So what I asked them to do was bring everything that reminded them of the old company, and it was plaques and it was cups and it was things and it was pictures and stuff. And in the next session what we did was we talked about the old company and we laid it to rest, and we gave it a lot of its due, and said what was good, and why it's gone now, and allowed people's hearts to arrive. Because what I find is if people don't say good goodbyes, they never say good hellos. So you as a manager have to help people say goodbye -- whether it's burying the sign of the company, whether it's having vicious volleyball to the very end, whether it's putting the past in a time capsule -- whatever it is. But people do better if they can say goodbye.

MISHLOVE: I guess getting in touch with that level of feeling sometimes entails moving beyond just rationality. You talk about ritual, which implies something that's not totally rational, but allows for emotional expression.

SCOTT: I find the people who don't experience emotional expression of the resistance do what I call Tarzan's swing across the curve -- we didn't tell the four phases, but they go from denial into commitment -- and they think it's all fine, and they don't know what's the matter with the people who have feelings of upset. Often they turn around and yell at the people in a way that says, "What's the matter? You know, we did this; it was two weeks ago. The merger's done. What's the matter with you?" And what happens is the people are in grief, and the Tarzan leader is over in commitment, never having felt the loss. I just worked with a merger, and experienced two ways of CEO's that dealt with the merger. One was more of a Tarzan type that got over into the commitment because he was a visionary, a very potent visionary, and saw where things were going. And then he turns around and says, "I'm not going in front of my people until they're profitable again." So what happened is, the people all freeze up in resistance, because their leader doesn't understand where they are. The other leader of the other company, the other CEO, has this meeting that just puts you in tears. He sits down with a thousand people and tells people about his own process, about what it's like for him not to be CEO anymore. And this whole meeting just allows people to say goodbye to the past. So that to me is a very potent leader -- not only someone who can manage the process of the resistance, but then take people back up into the commitment.

MISHLOVE: In other words, a Tarzan type, as you express it -- someone who can go from the moment before the transition, the denial phase, directly into commitment to the new reality -- is leaving a lot of people unable to move that quickly. And he has to recognize that people have to go through this, as you call it, a four-stage process, and we've talked about going from denial to resistance. The next stage, as I understand your work, has to do with exploration.

SCOTT: If you imagine a trough, and at the top is the denial, and then the resistance, and at the very bottom is the thing, the shift, where you finally experience that you're going to survive the process. And then people start into exploration, which is a nice word for chaos, actually. It's where people just are so ready to try anything, and they want to try these four ways, and these three things, and this new accounting system. They have lots of energy, and what a manager and leader has to do during that point is begin to focus his people, begin to help people not overprepare, because they feel so glad to be out of the pit, and they're coming up the other side into commitment. But they need that phase of regrouping. It's when you're coming out of a transition in your own personal life, and all of a sudden you want to take this course, and run here, and try this job, and do this, and do this. It's a very exciting time, but it needs focus. So in the exploration phase, that's when you use your training, that's when you spend your money on training, because then they're ready to listen.

MISHLOVE: And I guess the difference between resistance and exploration is the sense that there are options. Things aren't hopeless; they have some control.

SCOTT: Yes. And they're actually through the grieving period, and they're ready to see, well, what's in it for me in the future? You listen to what people say in the organization. When they start to talk about the future -- "Well, in two years, we could . . . " That's the kind of language that starts to be heard in the halls when people are in exploration and going towards commitment. When you are listening to an organization in resistance, it's as if you had a stethoscope on them. They are sounding like, "I can't do this; I have so much self-doubt. I just can't get through this." The resumes are being churned out on the Xerox machine. The organization sounds very different. People are not wanting to be there; they're withdrawn.

MISHLOVE: This phase of commitment sounds really exciting to me, on the other hand. Let's talk about the nature of commitment.

SCOTT: Well, I think at that point you have people who have gone through the denial, the resistance, and the exploration, and at that point people want to put their sights on the future. They're ready to understand what their mission, vision, and purpose is. They're ready to go through a goal-setting process. That's when to do your team building, because they're ready to come back together. They're not ready in the middle of resistance. They don't want anything to do with team building, because it seems like being strapped to a dying organization. But in commitment, that's when you really channel people towards the vision of the leader and get the sense of leadership from them as well. And then you get to the top of commitment, and you're ready to go again, and again and again. Change doesn't stop.

MISHLOVE: It's an ongoing process.

SCOTT: But what I also found out, Jeffrey, is the companies that have not been through it, have not done one of those well. Then it's much harder to do the next one. But if they have done one of those transitions well, they go more easily through the next changes that they have to make.

MISHLOVE: Well, when you've got a group of people and they're into resistance, or they're in exploration, and you're a manager, let's say you've got to get this group committed. And you need to do it, or you may feel you need to do it, as quickly as possible. What I think I hear you saying is, no, you've got to let it take its own time.

SCOTT: Well, you can push it a little bit. You can put a little Drano in the process. I think what I recommend that people do, is you've got to push them out of denial. You've got to confront them that what they have been doing will not work. You have to stop acknowledging that, and sometimes it's a very tough conversation you have to have, but it's compassionate, because it's not compassionate to leave someone in denial. You see that the managers sometimes collude in that, because it's easier to manage people in denial, because when they get into resistance they're very upset. You know you've succeeded in moving them from denial when they do get angry. You see, that's a success, but it doesn't feel like a success because then you think you're in the middle of it. What I say to people is they have to get what I call their tomato suit on, and they have to go stand in front of their people -- poom! poom! poom! -- and get hit with all the resistance. Actually, I had one whole team that went out and got yellow slickers, because they knew it was not going to be nice. But managers need to understand -- and this is almost a transcendent sort of thing -- they need to understand that the people are upset at the role, but not who they are as a person -- that you can wear the tomato suit, take the grief, take the upset, the disappointment, the failed expectations -- "I thought I was going to get, and I didn't" -- receive that, and turn it around. Because the minute people get that heard and let loose, then they move on. So you can make it faster, and help people through.

MISHLOVE: So it sounds as if two things that you're saying, are, number one, you have to acknowledge emotions. Whatever is going on, you cannot treat your business simply as a mechanism, as a process devoid of human feelings. And the other thing I hear you saying is listen; you have to listen to people.

SCOTT: A lot of managers think that listening is doing nothing, and I think it's doing something very important. So you zip yourself into your tomato suit, and you go listen. If you really want to be powerful, you tell them about your own experience, you tell them how it is for you. Because oftentimes what the Tarzans do is they go through that experience, but they do it at Pajaro Dunes on a weekend, and they never tell anybody. You see, I believe that they go through that, but they just don't tell anybody. What I think you're talking about is the heart. The change is made, but the heart never arrives. And if you want to deal with productivity in business, and you want to find out why people don't want to work anymore, it's because the heart has not been allowed to come into business in a way that is professional and that really takes into account people's passion for their jobs.

MISHLOVE: In fact I'm sure that most people sort of feel that they have to work to earn a living. It has nothing to do with their heart, with their passion in life. Most people have outside interests that satisfy those needs.

SCOTT: I think that's a model that used to work, and I don't think it works so well anymore. According to the Gallup Poll, forty-five million people hate their jobs. And we think the productivity crisis is about the Japanese. It's here, in the structure of the organization that we build, where people can't put their hearts. In my clinical practice I had a guy recently who said, "I am dying to find a place where I can put my heart, and all I'm offered is a job." That's where the productivity crisis is. We are making that up all by ourselves, it's not the Japanese. So as we don't include the heart in business, then we are leaving out a great potential of people's creativity. And we want innovation, creativity -- without the heart?

MISHLOVE: Well, it sounds like ultimately the greatest change, the greatest crisis, which is confronting American business and industry is to align our entire economic structure in such a way so that people really do find meaning and purpose and passion in their work.

SCOTT: That's what they want. And if people have that, you can't stop them.

MISHLOVE: Well, I would think so. Obviously, our greatest resource is our people, and to the extent that we're not utilizing that resource we can't compete.

SCOTT: We have a very interesting idea that the heart belongs at home, and the head belongs in the office. And until people can feel both of those things, they aren't fully productive. I think the greatest management challenge for the next ten years is to learn to manage human capital from a heartful perspective, and to understand that the productivity question is about motivation from the inside, and meaning. If you can make meaning for your people, at any level -- it is not about top jobs, either. I've just spent a week with people in hospitals. From top to bottom, they understand what they are doing there in that business, that business of health care. They are healers, and they understand it much better than people in another company that I was at, that doesn't understand that. So I think if you can make that meaning for people, you'll have them.

MISHLOVE: I sense, though, that this discussion can be very threatening to people, because if they begin to look very carefully at the possibility that they can align their passion, their life purpose, their meaning, with their work, they may think, "Well, if that's the case, I'd better quit, and then what am I going to do? I won't have a job."

SCOTT: Well, I don't know that they all have to quit. The biggest risk is to stay. The biggest risk is to stay and change your job from the inside out, because often in those conversations I say, "Well, have you talked to your boss about what you really care about?" "Well, no, I couldn't do that." "What prevents you?" "You know, I can't do that." I say, "Why? No mouth? No language? What is it?" They haven't even tried. I think in some ways it's an easier trip through the door than it is to stay and transform your work from the inside out. But I find that more managers are becoming more and more open. If you can couch it in the language of how it affects your productivity, and how it can enhance what you're doing, there's much more openness to that now. People are desperate; they'll try anything.

MISHLOVE: But it still seems, you know, in the world of business, the bottom line is profits, the bottom line is productivity.

SCOTT: Absolutely. If you want productivity, you'd better find a way to put people's hearts to work. I think it's very profitable. The organizations that I work with that start to do that kind of thing -- it's not only in the health care costs, you see, because you pay for this, you pay for the lack of heart in your work. You either pay it in Workers' Comp costs, stress claims, or you play it in health care benefits. So you look at the reduction of risk loss in accidents in your organization when people love what they're doing. You're saving money. You just have to translate it a different way.

MISHLOVE: Well, I would think there's a much bigger cost, truly, in the creativity and productivity of a company. Health care costs are enormous, but they're probably small compared to the --

SCOTT: But they're easier to measure. And they're much more clear on the pocketbook. Productivity is one of those things that's hard to put your hands around and sort of put a figure on. But if you can reduce, even everyone taking one less sick day next year, you've saved a lot of money.

MISHLOVE: Well, sociologists have long said that we go through life with a persona; we wear a mask. It's not really us; our real feelings are hidden underneath the mask. And I think what I am understanding from your discussion is that as organizations go through great change, as we deal with transition, we have to let more of ourselves come out, that we can't continue this personal business -- that we have to communicate. It's so essential, because of the change.

SCOTT: I find the organizations that do that, it takes them less time to go through the change. And I think in some ways it's not really peeling away the mask, but it's the person coming up behind the mask and coming through the mask.

MISHLOVE: Letting them shine, so to speak.

SCOTT: Yes. So I think that the organizations that do that, Jeffrey, really have a head start. I don't know any organization that's not dealing with change these days. And the question they keep asking is, "I can't make my people do it." See, they do the deals on the top, but they can't get the heart to follow. And they don't understand what it takes to move people through that, and recreate loyalty, recreate commitment, recreate a way of working together where people can come back to work after a large change.

MISHLOVE: In other words, the people at the top actually are able to go through this process, but then it gets stuck somewhere in the organization.

SCOTT: They may go through it, but they don't tell anybody; they don't really come forward as the leaders of the change. They want the personnel people or somebody else to do it. Often I find myself coaching the top people, because if they can get out and be the leaders, then the organization will follow them.

MISHLOVE: This has to do with leadership, really. In effect you're saying that a corporate leader, a manager of people, has to lead from the heart.

SCOTT: And if they haven't been through the change process themselves completely, they won't understand. It's the same thing with divorce or other things. If you don't say goodbye well, you never say hello well. A lot of people never say goodbye. Sometimes you have to back up and say goodbye.

MISHLOVE: Well, there's so much grief in our culture. We're dealing with so many social problems -- drugs, alienation, homelessness. Isn't there a sense in the corporate world that we've got to just keep a kind of lid on these personal things and not let them interfere?

SCOTT: But they do anyway. If ten or fifteen percent of your people are alcohol- or drug-addicted -- you know, the sandwich generation is dealing with not only managing their children, but managing their parents.

MISHLOVE: The baby boomers.

SCOTT: The baby boomers are really stretched to the limit right now, and I think the employers that understand the balancing of work and family, they are also dealing with two issues that are coming up very acutely -- recruitment and retention. You see, people want to work for companies that understand that balance. They've gotten fifty-one percent of their women into the workplace. To get the other forty-nine percent they're going to have to deal with those issues. The companies that are creatively addressing it -- it's not just a woman's issue, either; it's a corporate/ family balancing issue.

MISHLOVE: So the pressure is coming from both directions -- from people who want more self-actualization in their lives, who want to be able to realize more of themselves, and from the economic and competitive pressures in the business world, which are saying we must become more productive, we must really fully utilize our human resources.

SCOTT: It's a human capital management issue. Those are very economic terms, and they may sound very cold, but I think we have to look at those for making the humanistic argument, and I think we have to be able to weave that around the other issues, because it sure makes a difference. I have one hospital now that has forty physicians that they have not been able to recruit or retain. It's not because there aren't enough physicians; it's because the organization that they've created is not someplace where people want to work.

MISHLOVE: Cynthia Scott, we're out of time now, but it's been such a pleasure getting into the meat of human relations and change in corporations.

SCOTT: Good, Jeffrey. Thank you.

MISHLOVE: Thanks so much for being with me.

SCOTT: Thank you.


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