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Walls or windmills – how do you react to change?

There is an old Chinese proverb, for which the English equivalent reads

When the wind of change blows, some build walls, while others build windmills.

Reacting to Change

Photograph by Penny Richardson, all rights reserved, used by permission.

Flexible leaders don’t build walls to keep the change out, they build windmills to take advantage of the change and generate power. Being a flexible leader is one of the key principles of Intentional Leadership. One of our clients was working on a large project for one of their clients. Their client had been going through a lot of change with its South American parent. When the project had first started out, both parties would have characterized the nature of their transactions as largely based on goodwill and a handshake.

Change happens all the time

Then the pendulum swung in the other direction – everything had to be documented and seven or eight levels of approvals were required for even very small amounts of expenditures. This frustrated everyone involved. The downside for this was that some of the staff at our client tended to complain loudly about the approvals and the extra documentation. And their client used their documentation requirements to shield them from accountability in making progress on the project. Both sides were pointing fingers and playing the blame game… a classic wall that kept out progress. We worked with the combined team to figure out how they could make windmills out of this change. Our client and their client came together to make sense of this and to generate some mutual power so that the time it took to get the approvals wouldn’t hold up the work. We helped them understand from each other what was negotiable and what was not.

Change affects your team

It required everyone to be flexible,  to be willing to see beyond the detail of procedures and approvals and to keep a keen eye on the overall objective. All parties had to become more open – our client had to step up its game in documentation and their client had to become a little more cooperative instead of using their requirement for documentation in a punitive way.

Do you make walls or windmills? Are you a Flexible Leader? Do you adapt to change so that everyone has more power?

For more information on how your team can weather change and generate creative power, contact either co-founder of Big Tree Strategies, Bill or Esther or send an email to our concierge [concierge at] to explain your needs and see if there is something we could help with.

We have other examples of clients we’ve helped here and here.

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