Every once in a while, someone says something that makes me race for a pen. A while back I was at a St. Norbert College board meeting, and a comment was made that was both totally unexpected— and a great jolt.

Believe me, this college is amazing and the board members are some of the best minds and most courageous leaders I’ve ever known. Imagine my surprise when the chair repeated a comment he’d made during a different meeting: “So, if you don’t like change, how do you think you’ll like being irrelevant?”

My pen— and my head— were off to the racetrack.

Much of my professional work involves change management. With 30+ years of professional experience in more than 7 industries, I’ve fueled new ideas, garnered acceptance from multiple sources, drummed up the resources to make change work, and produced results that mattered.

After experiencing confusion, misunderstanding, distrust, resistance and fear, I’ve seen time and again those people who didn’t like change move from being significant leaders to discounted and disgruntled has-beens.

We’re living in an era where change is a huge driver. None of us can— or should— avoid it. If we want to move things forward, negative reactions like “we don’t have time for that,” or “we tried that before and it didn’t work,” or “we’re too big (or too small) for that,” are the last things that any leader of change wants to hear or is likely to tolerate.

Want your contributions— at work, at home, in your volunteer circles— to be valued?

Realize you control your own relevance. Begin to see options and think from multiple perspectives. Consider past and present more as small steps towards the future, not big drivers of what’s next. Be bolder than you’re accustomed to being. Add some risk to your thinking. Express curiosity. Frame more questions.

Be someone who matters.

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