Nothing Personal, But…

Way back in the day when I was just an aspiring Guru—mid-November, to be precise, I promised that I had more to say on change, and, boy, do I ever. In fact, as someone who enjoys blogging, I have quite a lot to say on a lot of things. It only takes a comment on twitter, someone else’s blog, at a meeting, at lunch, or wherever for me to drag out my soapbox—tucked neatly away with my laptop bag for portability—and hop on.  (Stand back! Hand gestures, fast talking and wild ideas usually follow, especially if I’m recently caffeinated.)

As an evangelist of social media and collaborative tools, at times I have found myself discouraged at how slowly others embrace change.  They, in turn, have been equally put off by the likes of me.  Eventually our opposing viewpoints would get us nowhere.  Does this sound like you?  Feeling discouraged?

Here are a few things that have helped me make progress in a change-averse environment:

  1. you 300x137 Nothing Personal, But...Criticize the process, not the people. It’s easy to confuse the people with the problem or process.   Get to know the people involve.  Respect them.  (A good friend who used to work for me was the perfect example of how we take our colleagues for granted.  In his memory, I recommit myself to respecting my fellow coworkers every time I read it, get a comment, or get an email about it. Please read and consider what you can do.)
  2. Give people a purpose. We’re a culture of people who define ourselves by what we do.  What you are proposing may save a lot of effort, but that effort is being done by a person.  To the person doing the job, you have just implied—whether intentionally or unintentionally—that his/her efforts are unnecessary.  Instead, try involving the people concerned in your plan or find a new role for them to fill.
  3. It’s not you; it’s me. It takes two to disagree.  If you are at an impasse, consider how you might be making your work personal.  Are you refusing to compromise on something?  Can you settle for small victories?  Can you sacrifice taking personal credit by enlisting the help of your social network?  You can’t use the same tactics with the same people indefinitely expect change.  Something has to give, and if your cause is important enough, perhaps you should let that something be you.

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Change Management

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This post was written by:

Nikki Massaro Kauffman

Nikki Massaro Kauffman - who has written 42 posts on .eduGuru

Nikki is a multimedia specialist with Penn State's World Campus Learning Design unit, creating and editing multimedia for online courses.

Previously, she was technology training coordinator with the Penn State University Libraries, responsible for technology training offered in the Libraries' 20+ departments and 30+ library locations.  

Over the years, she's been she served as an interim associate director of instructional technology and multimedia, a programmer, a database specialist, a Microsoft Certified Master Instructor, a continuing education instructor for seniors and adults with disabilities, and a high school English and communications technology teacher.  

Her interests are in the areas where technology, training, and communication intersect.  She holds degrees in both computer science and in education.  She is also an insomniac and an extreme extrovert with an indiscriminate love of language (including expletives).

10 Responses to “Nothing Personal, But…”

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    Christina Says:

    I love posts that bring people back down to earth by revisiting the basics. You hit a homerun with this; I agree, if we can remember these three things, both sides can achieve things neither thought possible.


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    Stevie Says:

    This is a FABULOUS post, and a really good reminder of the things we all need to keep in mind as we try to create change in our organizations and ourselves.


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    J. Todd Bennett Says:

    “What you are proposing may save a lot of effort, but that effort is being done by a person.”

    This is a great reminder, particularly during lean budget times as everyone is looking for ways to cut back and eliminate things. The barriers to implementing time and effort saving technologies and processes are as much related to the feelings of the person who did/does that job as they are to the technology.

    Deep down inside, it’s always about me.


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    Michelle Panulla Says:

    This post is personally timely, and making me consider a situation without the attached frustrations that have been building. Thanks for the reminder of how people and their work are separate, even though our passions make it feel like one and the same. =)


  5. Avatar image
    Nikki Massaro Kauffman (author) Says:

    @Christina, @Stevie, @J. Todd, and @Michelle: Part of my motivation in posting this is recognizing my own weakness this time of year. I get on my mission to change things, I get frustrated with people a perceive are in my way, and then I forget that interpersonal conflicts involve dealing with human beings.

    Sometimes it’s good to step back and think about their motivations, as well as my own. When work gets personal, no one’s thinking rationally anymore.


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    Jeff Swain Says:

    Hey Nikki,

    Nice post. Well said. I believe that a critical success factor lies in our ability to meet each person where she or he is at. Their fears, concerns, anxiety are relevant and must be addressed if we are to move forward in adoption. Otherwise we are collaborators in perpetuating the same cycle.


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    Kat Says:

    Thank you for the reminder. I often feel the very same way…I live in a rural area and I am surrounded by non-tech people and the internet un-savvy…I mean SERIOUSLY un-savvy. It’s a challenge to educate the masses and I try to remember that it’s patience and persistence that will eventually change things.
    However, I find it both humorous and helpful to create a little fantasy once in a while; when I am frustrated to the max, I write a letter venting with all my sarcasm and anger. Then, I look at it the next day when I am calm, laugh at myself and then respond in the way you suggest. I find it satisfying and no one gets hurt :)


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    Morgan Says:

    I think having people who are conservative about change can be very useful (even if it is annoying). Nikki, the process you lay out for convincing your peers is a great exercise for understanding how things are done within an organization and could help me see the process of change and progress more clearly. Getting buy-in helps me clarify my goals.

    Without the barriers that force me to think about change, I could easily lose sight of the objective of my communications in the excitement over the latest new technology.


  9. Avatar image
    Nikki Massaro Kauffman (author) Says:

    @Kat: Believe me, I understand the need to vent. A friend and I even created my own Twitter back, back channel (a private group tweet) for such a purpose. I went so far as created a charter and culture of tolerance (dubbed “The Articles of Impropriety”) for the people who use the room for venting, ranting, and other such behavior. Sometimes you need to form these pockets of trust and shared frustration.

    @Morgan: Having folks who are conservative are definitely good at keeping the dreamers on the team grounded. As an extrovert, I think aloud and rely on others as my vetting process for ideas.

    Sometimes I find it helpful to include a naysayer or two on the team knowing if I can win them over, I can win the rest.


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    Claris Says:

    Social media are quickly becoming almost essential for new bloggers to gain visibility.


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