Kippen de Alba Chu
Director, Iolani Palace*
We often talk about influencing others – but what we really mean is, how can we get them to change? How can we get them to do what we want? In the past three years, I have personally realized the truth of that oh-so-overused idiom, “We can’t change others; we can only change ourselves.” And it is true – very true.
That said, we can invite others to change. We can do so by changing ourselves. For me, sharing my personal transformation from an inward to an outward mindset has been the most effective way I’ve found of inviting those in my organization to change.
My Mindset Journey
When I went through Arbinger’s Developing and Implementing an Outward Mindset (DIOM) workshop, one exercise involved identifying our biggest challenge at work. My biggest challenge was a person: one of my department managers. I saw her as a huge problem. I internalized our conflict and sought allies in my quest to prove that she was the issue (not me; I was innocent!).
The DIOM training really hit home as I slowly realized that, in fact, I was the problem. I struggled. I was in denial and kept defending myself by bringing up all the horrible ways she had treated me. Ultimately, though, I couldn’t deny it anymore. I acknowledged that I’d treated her badly, too. I had withheld information to make her look incompetent. I had bashed her behind her back. I over-emphasized her mistakes and belittled her successes. It was a very sobering thing to admit to all the harm I’d done to her.
When I returned to work, I wanted to begin developing an outward mindset culture across my organization. (To find out why, read this blog post.)
I knew it started with me. I had to truly turn outward and, by doing so, invite others to follow. As a first step, I began regularly meeting with this “problem” manager. I apologized to her for making her job so difficult over the years and offered my help going forward. It transformed our relationship.
Inviting Others on My Journey
A few months later I began facilitating the DIOM workshop, first for my senior management team and then for all employees. The really powerful transformations happened when I started reflecting on my relationship with this problem employee. I shared all the horrible things I’d done to her – how I’d blocked her progress, made her job more difficult, talked badly about her to others.
Hearing me talk, my senior staff was in shock. They’d been my closest allies against the problem manager. We would sit around and bash her when she wasn’t around. They’d had their own conflicts with her and had complained to me – and I’d sympathized, of course. They were stunned by my 180-degree turnaround. They said, “But she did X and Y and Z!” I had to reply, “Yes, but I hurt her too, and in order for things to change, someone has to make the first move.” I’d only recently had that realization myself. It was powerful to share and role model it for my team.
They Joined Me
The team followed my lead. Of course there have been struggles, and of course there were other pieces to this puzzle, but my vulnerability with the team was a start. It invited them to be vulnerable too, so that we could tackle the problems we faced.
Since then, Iolani Palace has become one of the most successful museums in Hawaii. When other museums are struggling to make ends meet, we are having our best years yet. And this has very little to do with implementing best practices, spending more dollars on marketing, or pushing the organization to be more lean and efficient. Those things had been implemented over many years without real success. It only happened when we invested in our employees and made it a top priority to become an outward mindset organization. Becoming a people-centered museum, not an artifact-based one, is what made the difference.