Today’s post is the featured article from the July 2011 issue of The Front Porch Newsletter. If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription.


We live in a world of rapid change. Yet some would say, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Change can be deceiving. Change can be a very surface-level thing. Like white-washing. Like a façade. Employees become immune to the next “flavor of the month.” Unfortunately, leaders do too.

More critically, change can deceive us from understanding what we are really hanging-on to.

In fact, change can tighten our grip unknowingly encouraging us to hold-on tighter beneath the surface of change. We can become quite effective at appearing to change when nothing has really changed at all … and most everyone knows it. Certainly, leaders often undermine the process because they want change and they want it now. I am reminded of the advice a dear friend of mine learned from her grandfather:

Nothing really great happens very quickly.

I think of the generations upon generations who would invest in building a cathedral they would never see actually completed. It would be hard to imagine in today’s world. A case could certainly be built that speed and volume are the enemy of meaningful change.

But what if the real undermining enemy of meaningful change had nothing to do with speed … or volume? And what if it didn’t have as much to do with the leader as it had to do with every one of us? What if it simply had to do with our tendency to “attach” to anything and sometimes everything … especially certain things? On the surface, attachments can seem beneficial. It often seems synonymous with great things like commitment, passion and reliability. Our attachments, however, may very well create a facade of these noble characteristics just the same as the motions of change establish a deceptive white-washing for meaningful change.

Our attachments are a paradox.

If you have to hang-on to something then you really don’t have that something at all. In other words, it is forced rather than real. I would suggest this is true in our most critical relationships, it is true in employee engagement, and it is true in our loyalty. And sometimes what we hang-on to in turn begins to hang-on to us. This makes meaningful change really hard to come by.

It is when you are free to go, but you decide to stay … that your choice to stay is real. It is also true that when you are free to stay, but you decide to change that the choice to change is real. The success of meaningful change may have less to do with the pitfalls of rapid forced change than it has to do with our arms of attachment … our habits of hanging-on.

It may be another dimension of why our core values are so critical. While we tend to be attached to behaviors, wants and needs …. our core values are just a way of being. Grabbing values is like trying to grab air or water. You can be in it, absorb it, and benefit from it … but you just can’t attach to it.

Maybe the leader’s drive to force change is driven by the actual need to unleash the solid grip we hold. Rather than forcing change, a leader may be more effective by modeling detachment.

If you have read this far, you might be thinking … so what’s your point?

I am half thinking the same thing. But then I remember … we are so attached to the concept that every article must have a point. If your mind, at this point, is simply wandering and wondering … then you may have just taken your first step on your way to detachment. And it is there that you just might find what really needs to change!