HGTV’s House Hunters is television comfort food. The formula is always the same, which is strangely soothing. An individual or a couple looks for a home, they have a budget (and expectations for that home that far exceed that budget), are presented three choices of residences, and come to a happy ending. The only variable is whether the people are sort of critical or really critical when they visit the homes. Admittedly, the most entertaining episodes have zingers like these: “Ewww, this house is so dated!” “Can you believe these paint colors?” “That bathroom is unlivable. Complete gut job.”
We only ever see House Hunters from the perspective of people looking for a home. But, a few days ago as I was watching, a thought dawned on me: how would it feel from the perspective of the homeowner, whose house is getting nitpicked to death? On a more personal level, what if they were visiting my house and I had to hear their critiques on national television?
I didn’t have to think too long. I know how I would feel. I’d be incredibly defensive. And mad… definitely mad. Those paint colors they critiqued – every one of them was chosen by me with care. In fact, I painted them on the walls. That bathroom that is “unlivable” is where my kids grew up taking baths. In a ten-minute visit, they just tore through my world. No matter how much I’d want to sell the home, I don’t know if I could sell it to them.
I certainly wouldn’t help them move in.
A Big Danger
Often times when we arrive in a new role, organization, or, in the case of House Hunters, a home, it’s easy to spot places that need updating and changing. And, being given the keys to make changes is incredibly invigorating. Who doesn’t like to exert influence? For many millennials who have now been out of college and in the workforce for five to ten years, we’re finally in a position to enact our ideas. After years of thinking, “If only they would give me a chance, I would do things so much better,” the “they”s of the world are now saying, “Okay, what do you got?”
As many of us step into more places of influence, there’s a big danger we face. In a quest to help move an initiative from here to there, where we talk about the present situation being unacceptable, it’s easy to insult the past. Most of the time we don’t mean to – we’re just excited about the future. But, in the process, we can do big damage.
In a recent meeting, I offered a pretty blunt assessment of a resource that had been in use for a long time. I had some ideas and was excited about how we could move forward. And while I stand behind some of my points, I had forgotten something important. This resource had done some incredible things in the past. It had literally changed lives forever. The people who had developed it had poured their hearts and souls into making it substantial. In my excitement to see things improved, I had minimized those things.
Just because things may need to change today doesn’t negate the great things that happened in the past.
History is important. The leaders who are most effective in causing momentum today understand the history of the past. They work to honor and celebrate it because they also realize they need the buy-in of those who were there before to help make the future a success.
3 Ways to Honor Your Organization’s Past
So, how can we honor the past while changing the present? Here are three ways to start:
1 – Consult those who came before you
When my wife and I bought our first home, the previous homeowners were gracious enough to meet us. It was the most productive thirty minutes of my life. They pointed out quirks and tips that made transitioning to the home way easier than it could have been. And, I could tell the homeowners appreciated us wanting to meet with them. We could tell the home meant a lot to them. It was clear they didn’t want something they had invested so much in to fall apart just because there was a new homeowner.
Wherever and whenever possible, consult those who came before you. Pick their brains. They know what worked, how they came up with the idea, and some thoughts for moving forward that you might not be thinking about. This takes time and is sometimes awkward, but it could be the single most important factor in your changes succeeding. Not only is it helpful, it’s honoring. And who knows, these people could wind up becoming your greatest advocates, if you let them.
2 – Be humble
It is rare for something to be timeless. Take your home for instance. It’s almost certain that in ten to fifteen years, the paint colors, flooring style, and art décor you’ve chosen will elicit an “ewww” from the next generation.
The same is true with our work. It’s easy to think when we’re implementing something new that it is the absolute best version that will ever exist.
In actuality, we’re really hoping it lasts past two years.
A key way to honor the past is to be humble about the changes being made. Being open about that is honoring to those who took the same risks before you.
3 – Celebrate stories of the past
There were successes of the past. Insecure leaders only celebrate the successes that come from their ideas. Great leaders realize they’re joining something bigger than themselves. They celebrate where an organization has been because it helps establish a proud tradition they’re carrying on. And, it recognizes the contribution of those who sacrificed to make today’s change possible in the first place.
Change Is An Art Form
Bringing about change is an art form. It’s not simply about having or implementing a great idea; it’s also about creating buy-in with those who have invested so much in the past. So, take an organizational history lesson. And, if you ever find yourself on House Hunters, consider what critiques you decide to air on national television.
The homeowners might be watching.