Emotional Acceptance of Change

Jerry Cooper, the CEO of ASX Industries, was having a catch-up call with his college roommate, George Davis. Cooper was describing his frustration with an initiative to change the culture of his organization to become more diverse and inclusive. “We launched a corporate wide training program on diversity and inclusion. I thought that would help but it only seemed to have turned off our people.”

George, a professor at the state’s land grant university, chuckled and said: “You’ve fallen into the trap of what I call sheep dip training.”

Cooper was confused, “You got me intrigued. What is sheep dip training?”

Davis responded: “Remember I grew up on a farm. When the weather turned warm, we would bring our sheep into a pin in the barn. We would shear them of their wool. Of course we sold the wool, but in the shearing process we made the summers bearable for the sheep. If we hadn’t removed their wool, they would have been miserable. After we sheared each sheep, we would then give them a big dose of medicine that would prevent them from getting worms. We injected the medicine using a syringe that was one inch in diameter, and 4 inches long. We had to position the syringe far enough to go down their throats so they couldn’t spit it up. Boy did they hate being dipped. As a result, the sheep associated the round up with the sheep dip rather than the shearing. If we didn’t have a couple of great sheep dogs, I don’t know if we would have ever got the sheep into the pin. I suspect your employees view the training as being dipped.”

Cooper understood because he had always hated mandatory training. “If I don’t do the training, what can I do?” Cooper asked.

What works for me with our students is to send them messages throughout the semester. Each message tells a story with a “hidden moral”. The messages come from my experience, and they are often emotional. I’ll often have tears when I’m writing them. My students seem to internalize the messages because they relate to personal situations which they can connect with. I end each message with: “You were there. What would you do?” I don’t ask them to turn in their responses, because I don’t want to get “what I should do” answers. I do these weekly. Students tell me that these messages have helped them dig deep into their souls. I see a real difference in our students over time. I’ve made no attempt to measure differences because that would likely end up as a phony number. One final thing, writing the messages has made me a better person.”

Cooper was amazed: “Who knew I had such a deep thinking roommate. I want you to help me.”

Change rarely results from change events. It results from repetitive messaging, and role modeling designed to create an emotional acceptance for the need for change. Mandates for change are rarely accepted. In fact, they often have the opposite effect. Change happens when our souls are stirred for the need to change.

Just imagine how many change efforts have failed because we have taken the wrong approach to bringing about change? Just imagine how each of us have changed? Was it sudden or gradual? Just imagine how we accept the need for change? Is it the result of being told or a deeply felt personal assessment of what we value in life.

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“You change your life by changing your heart.” – Max Lucado (Author and Pastor)

How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.