It seems as if we are in a time that everything around us is changing so fast. We see so many pressures on families, systems and our own lives. One wonders how we will make it through. And the answer is we will together.
My good friend DeAmon Hartges has taught me many important lessons in addressing change, but one of the most important is that in managing change, we have to make sure we are listening to the right people. He often says we should quit talking about deliverables of change strategies – for that suggests that we already have all of the answers. Instead we should talk about the discoveries of change finding out what we don’t know that can work. Discovery that comes from listening to people not talking at them. What a profound lesson. Discovery not deliverables.
From the opposite end of the state came another lesson from and 80+ year old mom. She told me the story of a recent “team meeting” for her son. Her husband and her were there with the team of professionals and their son – when one literally tossed a behavior plan across the table and said “we need you to sign this – now!”
When asked what it was, the response was “don’t worry it is his behavior plan that we already implemented and we just need to document it.” Well that did not go over well and the consultant then started reading it word for word as if talking to a young child. Which also did not go over to well.
Finally, the mother stopped everyone and shared, “You need to stop and talk to us the way we listen, not the way you want to speak.” Another key lesson if we are listening.
We are in the midst of a great change as the Centers on Medicaid and Medicare (CMS) are changing much of what we understand about the Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) system. Many states are spending lots of time studying locations and addresses to see if they qualify. Plans are being written and rewritten and everyone wants answers.
At the risk of oversimplification, what is being asked is consideration of what people want to discover about themselves – their plan not the one you want for them. It’s about discovering the joy in their lives from the choices they make not the ISP goals and objectives. It is about the relationships and activities they chose that makes life full not just and address of a facility or a home.
And discovery means we listen with an open mind about what people care about and we talk in a way that people listen not the way we want to speak. Not so hard if we work at it.
Next time in a meeting or conversation, stop and think about discovery and what you are doing. It might start with understanding who you really are listening to and talking to not delivering a message. It might end with a greater shared goal and understanding. Once you do, things might become clearer and the change we face becomes much more manageable.
John Dickerson spent 42 years with The Arc, the last 32 as executive director of The Arc of Indiana. He is now a Partner Consultant with ao Strategies.