Dancing on a shifting carpet

Dancing on a shifting carpet

Dance on a shifting carpet“Instead of seeing the rug being pulled from under us, we can learn to dance on a shifting carpet”

Thomas F. Crum

I’m working with some housing managers at the moment help them manage their teams after a massive reorganisation. You can almost hear the mixture of panic, desperation and even resignation and in their voices as they articulate their concerns and the sense of responsibility they feel.  How do I get people through this change?  How do I get myself through change?

I was struck by Thomas Crum’s quote above.  It got me thinking, that what the managers are asking is:  How do we get ourselves and others to dance on a shifting carpet?

Dancing on a shifting carpet.  Wouldn’t that be lovely?   What skill would that take, to tumble and turn and place your feet between the emerging folds and ripples?  Wouldn’t it be exhilarating to be that agile and sure- footed?  Then a few days later my twin grand children came to visit.  At three years old, they borrowed oversized dance shoes from their teenage aunties, put on a dance video and leapt, somersaulted, circled and clapped along with the dancers on the screen.  As they danced, the rug which covers our sitting room floor began to ruck and fold, losing its grip on the floorboards underneath.  The girls fell and tumbled, knocking each other flying, shrieking with laughter and bouncing back up for more.  It was a joyous moment.

The thing was the twins weren’t seeing the moving carpet as an obstacle.  They were seeing it as part of the fun.  They didn’t see falling over and making mistakes with their foot placing as a problem. They weren’t that agile or sure-footed.  They saw it as all as enjoying life and learning.

I think that there’s a lesson here for us as managers. We often talk about “learning organisations” but what do we model in our behaviours and in the way we speak to people?  How often do we label situations and people as “problems” and in doing so start limiting our ability to be creative and with that lose our curiosity and sense of fun?  Sometimes we forget to remember that experimenting and making mistakes is critical to learning and we forget to help people make sense of their experience and try out new ways to find their own ways through.  It is in times of change, this ability to process experiences, make sense of them and then resiliently and with a sense of exploration move on, becomes even more critical.

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