What hugging dad can teach us about the failure rates of nearly all change and transformation initiatives

Until recently I never thought about it, but suddenly I realized that I never hug my dad. How do you approach an issue like that? Is it easy to change? How can we progress, if even simple changes in life are difficult? What if one side wants to change and the other doesn’t?

I do respect and love my father dearly, so why didn’t I hug him? I have three children, and I embrace them with hugs every time we’re together. I hug my mother when we meet. My kids will shower my father with hugs. Even my wife hugs him every time we visit, while I would settle for polite nods and respectful handshakes. I didn’t have anything against hugging him, but over some 40 years, it had just become the way we did things, and routines turn habitual.

I remember feeling strange about not hugging him at times. I even nearly did it once, but quickly caught up with myself thinking that he should make the first move. After all, he is my father and should be the more responsible one. The mind displays brilliance in persuasion when you need to convince yourself to stay loyal to habits.

After more profound self-reflection, I concluded that “I” should become the change I want to create. If I cannot even change my own mind, I cannot change anything. I had made my decision. Next time I would greet my dad with a big hug. It sounds easy, right? Just walk up close, open arms and hug.

The reality, however, differs from theory, even on tiny matters. My mind created endless excuses to convince me that it’s better for everyone to continue as before. After recognizing the work and power of habit, and a few visits later, I was finally there, ready to try breaking the pattern again.

Driving to my parent’s takes a good hour, allowing plenty of time to prepare mentally. Until pulling up in front of their house, I felt ready and in complete control. However, as I parked and got ready to step out, anxiety emerged. My wife hugged my mom and my dad. I hugged my mom, turned to my dad and then time froze. My heart pounded faster, and palms were sweating. It felt like the first time I stood on the diving tower’s highest platform. Shall I dive or not? I remember jumping off the platform as easier though. At least I could convince myself that it would beat the public embarrassment of climbing back down from the tower. Here, there was no crowd, no tower, just my dad an arm’s length away. And then I jumped…

I hugged my dad for the first time, and it went well. He was caught by surprise at first, but quickly put his arms around me and hugged back. Actually, it went more than well. It was a small act that may have a life-altering effect, bringing us closer together, strengthening our relationship and making a happier dad.

It is enlightening to reflect on how making such a tiny change can feel so overwhelming, and to understand how powerfully the mind protects established patterns and habits. In business, habits may even be stronger; besides the protection they receive in the mind of each person, they become manifested into the organization’s culture. 

70% of all organizational change and transformation initiatives fail according to McKinsey and Company. Understanding why even small changes such as starting to hug my dad is difficult, can help us understand why organizational change faces these brutal odds.

Real change comes through the work of inner transformation. To succeed, we must dare to and allow ourselves to be vulnerable. We must examine ourselves and our organizations openly, honestly, and purge out any resemblance of selfishness, insecurity, and any protectionism of “how we’ve always done things.” The final step is daring to become the change we seek to create.

I do not hold a Ph.D. in Change Management, but I found the courage to hug my dad.

Do you dare to embark the journey of inner change?

By | 2019-03-18T22:32:42+00:00 March 18th, 2019|Blog|0 Comments