Sun | May 19, 2019

Trevor E.S. Smith | Why I Need To Be Different

Published:Sunday | March 18, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Could you commit murder?

In the movie The Push, psychological illusionist Derren Brown uses social pressure to convince ordinary, decent, real-life individuals to become increasingly socially compliant until they commit murder.

Have many of us have lost our objectivity because of social pressure?

Can socialisation and corporate culture strip us of our capacity to think independently?

Critically, are socialisation and corporate culture stifling creativity and innovation?

Let us explore these questions from the perspective of a 'Dan Jnr'.

Dan Jnr had been elevated to lead the unit. Like many others in his situation, Dan Jnr is facing many challenges. His experience is replicated across many organisations, and we capture its essence here.


How was your promotion received?


There was lukewarm reception by some team members. A few appeared to be supportive. However, there is a hard core of individuals who had spent years under the leadership of my predecessor, who refuse to cooperate.


What is their grouse?


The organisation is big on tradition. Many of the employees have been there for years. Some came there directly out of school and have never experienced any other work environment. You survive there by falling in line with cultural norms.

I am relatively new to the organisation and a newbie in this unit.

I am viewed with suspicion, as I am one of a group of strategically recruited executives who are expected to lead the renewal of the organisation.

We are viewed by the employees as the first wave of an invading army that is coming to take away their jobs and destroy everything they hold dear.


This sounds like there is mistrust.


Do you think you may have contributed to this in any way?


I try to be polite and respectful. However, I am here to get a job done. I am expected to initiate change and make a difference.

The biggest challenge may not be related to trust. The problems arise every time I try to introduce something new.

I get overrun with responses about how it has always been done. The persona of the previous unit leader looms large. Resistance to change is the issue, from my perspective. I have never hidden the fact that change is my agenda, so there should be no misunderstandings.


What support are you getting from the top?


I get a mixed response. They seem to appreciate the need for the renewal, but, in the main, they are also wed to tradition.

For example, I might get approval for a new initiative, but being supported in its implementation is another matter.


Could it be that your approach to change management is too aggressive and needs tweaking?


It may be. I face roadblocks at every turn and I feel like I am out there on my own most of the time. But I feel like that comes with my role as a change agent.


What is the answer from your perspective?


I am not sure that I am able to prescribe solutions.

I think that both sides are into a new experience, and neither party is sure how to deal with it.

Maybe I could have learnt to slow down and build trust first, rather than pushing through the change agenda.

I also wonder if top management could have been more thoughtful in the planning and introduction of the change initiative.

I get the sense that the organisation was not ready. This kind of transformation initiative requires preparation, and change agents like me could definitely benefit from some specialised training and ongoing support.


What next?


I appreciate the challenges. In the final analysis, I think that I need to continue to be different. If I succumb to the pressure of the traditional culture, I would have failed.

I need to be different, as the difference that I am representing will save the jobs of those who are resisting - it is not a strategy to replace them.

I need to be different because the trajectory of my life is different from most of my colleagues. Statistically, the greater part of my life is ahead of me, while theirs is behind them. I need to maintain a future-ready mindset.

I have to be different because this issue is bigger than me, and even my organisation. This kind of transformation is of national importance.

Dan Jnr's situation is increasingly a feature of life in organisations in this climate of rapid and inescapable change.




Are there Dan Jnr units in your organisation? The Breakthrough Boot Camp and Mentoring Programme is designed to deal with precisely those situations. Check it out here:

Participate in a face-to-face, interactive, conflict-avoidance and management personal development workshop being put on by the St Andrew Church of Christ on Sunday, March 25, at 6 p.m. Location: 77 Red Hills Road. Facilitators: AndrÈ Allen-Casey and Trevor Smith. No charge.

- Trevor E.S. Smith and the Success with People Academy team prepare and certify leadership professionals and coach/mentors and develop high performing teams. Hire smart with their recruitment solutions. Now enrolling for the Q1 cohort of the ICF/SHRM-accredited certified behavioural coach programme. The Breakthrough Boot Camp and Mentoring Programme is now open for participation. Email: