Posted on : Friday May 1, 2009

Watch the Managing Change Presentation Online Now!

Photos from the Managing Change Conference

By Shannon Baker, BCM/D National Correspondent

COLUMBIA, Md.—It all started when Richard, a successful businessman, chose to adapt to a significant event that changed everything… a tornado.

Gary Bradt, a prominent expert on leadership and change who led a sold-out “Managing Change: Love It or Lead It!” conference at the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware

Gary Bradt

Instead of falling victim to his losses—he owned several electronics stores that had received damage from the storm—he decided to hold a “Tornado Sale,” selling items directly from his warehouse, which had received the least damage from the storm.

Spending the majority of his existing budget on promoting this unusual sale, he was quite relieved to see lines of people in the warehouse ready to buy.

The event was so successful that Richard decided to make the “Tornado Sale” an annual event. Shortly thereafter, he opened his first superstore to accommodate all the new customers. The new store, featuring expanded selling space, a wide assortment of discounted brand-name goods, and warehouse distribution, also was given a new corporate name: Best Buy.

Now, there are over 1,300-1,400 Best Buys across America.

“You could say Richard Schulze got his start when he had nearly lost everything in the rubble. But he also found the ‘ring in the rubble,’” shared Gary Bradt, a prominent expert on leadership and change who led a sold-out “Managing Change: Love It or Lead It!” conference at the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware on Mar. 23.

Bradt was on hand to provide insights and practical suggestions on how to find the “ring of opportunity” in the “rubble” of change, based on his book, “The Ring in the Rubble: Dig Through Change and Find Your Next Golden Opportunity.”

Bradt, who was endorsed by Spencer Johnson as the leading speaker on Johnson’s bestseller “Who Moved My Cheese?” has mentored several high profile clients, including IBM, FedEx, Kodak, eBay, NASA and General Motors, to name a few. He once worked with Don Sweeney, a layman at Ashton Church who serves on the Leadership Development and Support Team, and Conflict Resolution Team at the BCM/D, .at Ernst & Young, where they experienced significant change in the midst of several company challenges.

Noting that everyone is facing rubble in their professional and volunteer lives, Bradt listed several prominent issues of today: the economy, use of technology, remaining a team/building relationships as the society become more virtual; reaching the younger generation; and the personal issues of marriage, divorce, birth and illness.

Noting that change is not the enemy, Bradt shared that he believes that change is “the essence of life.” To illustrate, he pointed to the difference between the up and down fluctuation of an electrocardiograph recording of the electrical activity of the heart versus a flatline, which indicates no activity.

“Would you rather have the change or the flatline?” he asked, noting that no change means a certain death, pointing to a phrase as quoted by William Safire in “The New York Times”: “When you’re through changing, you’re through.”

Rather than ignore or fight against change, Bradt suggested the following ways to find opportunities in it.

Motivate the middle.

“When change comes along, think of it as a curve,” he suggested. “Ten percent of the people, you don’t have to lead them to the change. All you have to do is direct them and they are excited.”

The other 10 percent is the “I am not budging” group, he continued. Too many leaders spend too much time with these groups of people, instead of putting energy into motivating the middle group, which represents 80 percent of the people.

“It is easy to pay too much attention to this bottom ten percent because they are so loud and obnoxious,” he said, urging his listeners not to get hung up on them.

“I’m not saying totally ignore them, but don’t give them your full attention,” he said, suggesting instead that they focus their effort in moving the 80 percent of people in the middle into adopting the changes.

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

“Understand that success can be a very dangerous thing, because once we become successful, we don’t try to do anything differently,” he said.

“Insanity,” he asserted, revisiting Einstein’s reverse logic, “is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same result.” Leaders try to get the same results from their previous successes, despite that time and circumstances have changed.

“You’ve got to step outside your comfort zone,” he said. “I can’t guarantee that you will find your ring in the rubble, but if you leave your shovel in the shed, I can guarantee that you won’t find it,” he challenged.

You can’t get through change alone.

Bradt shared a news video illustration of a wife who lost her ring in the trash and ultimately in the city’s landfill. It took two days to go through 46 tons of deer carcasses, spoiled food and other trash. Eventually, the garbage truck driver from their street helped them locate the right location of their personal trash, and the ring was found.

“You never know where a genius may lurk,” Bradt said, noting that in churches there may exist “diamonds in the rough” who may hold the right mindset and can provide solutions to many needs.

Don’t manage time.

Instead, invest time in people, Bradt said, sharing a powerful story of when Carolina Panthers football player Steve Smith had an altercation with another team member who ended up in the hospital.

To Bradt’s dismay, Smith was suspended but was quickly reinstated to the team. Concerned about the message that may be conveyed to his own son about getting off too easily from wrong behavior, Bradt expressed anger in a letter to the team’s owner, Jerry Richardson.

To his surprise, he later received a hand-written note from Richardson, who then drove with Smith two hours in the snow to spend three hours with Bradt and his son.

Though Bradt initially thought this was an incredible customer service story, it emerged as a changed leadership story as Bradt realized that Smith and Richardson’s relationship was the key to that special day. Richardson invested in Smith, a fatherless 22-year-old from the streets of Los Angeles, as they drove together. Smith, over time, became known as an incredible leader, on and off the football field.

“Who are your Steve Smiths, your garbage truck drivers, your diamonds in the rough who may be able to help you solve your problems in your church?” Bradt asked.

Let go of whatever is holding you down or holding you back.

Using chairs as illustrations, Bradt portrayed how resentment/anger, fear and an overactive defensiveness prohibit people from receiving what God has for them. In each case, the chair served as a visual reminder of the unnecessary burdens people carry.

Sharing tactics for letting go of these burdens, Bradt urged his listeners to accept reality for what it is, refuse to carry other people’s chairs (problems), express one’s feelings by writing letters that are never intended to be sent and forgive.

Elaborating, he said, instead of receiving someone else’s problem, challenge that person to come up with solutions to that problem. He also noted that people who do not forgive are the ones who hurt the most.

“I think forgiveness is the untapped stress tool,” he said.

Latch on to core values.

“Core values will sustain you and provide you practical guidance,” Bradt said, pointing to the example of Randy Pausch, who wrote “The Last Lecture” about living your childhood dreams, to his children as he was dying from pancreatic cancer.

“When you are in your darkest hours, buried deep in the rubble, it is your core values that will get you out,” he said.

Balance: make sure the ring is worth the price you pay for it.

Noting that balance is required in the intellectual, physical, spiritual and relational realms of one’s life, Bradt noted, “If you are out of gas, folks, you aren’t taking anyone anywhere,” he said.

He suggested the following tactics for reigniting one’s passion: “Don’t assume what drove you earlier in your career will continue to do so now; and focus on a cause larger than yourself.”

He suggested that his participants ask questions about their lives. “At work ask, ‘How can I be of more service?’ At home ask, ‘How can I be more loving?’” he said.

Never stop believing the ring is there.

Realizing that it is easy to get discouraged, Bradt shared how his positive attitude changed a devastating situation completely.

He was a fairly new Christian when he and his wife had their first child, a son who had major health issues and was told he may not survive. Bradt’s first reaction was to muddle in the depression, asking, “Why? What did we do to deserve this?”

Suddenly, it was as if he heard the answer, “Why are you sitting there feeling sorry for yourself while your son is struggling for his life?” He had to choose between his son (the ring) and the rubble (the situation).

He chose to focus entirely on his son, who at four months old had open-heart surgery. At six months, he had another emergency heart surgery. Through it all, he and his wife got closer together.

His son is now 20 years old and is the inspiration behind Bradt’s book, “The Ring in the Rubble: Dig through Change and Find Your Next Golden Opportunity.”

“Change itself doesn’t dictate the eventual outcome of your situation; how you think about and handle change is what makes all the difference,” he said.

In a separate question and answer period, Dunkirk Church pastor, Rick Hancock, realizing that the rubble is not one big rock, but several small rocks all piled together, asked, “How do we avoid being overwhelmed by the rubble?”

Bradt smiled and answered, “By focusing on the ring.”