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Leading business transformation that lasts

David Shaner's compelling, The Seven Arts of Change, shows business leaders that transforming a business only happens when each employee equates organizational change with the process of deep personal growth.

"The bottom line is that, despite how technological and automated organizations have become, at their core they remain a collection of human energies that are merely being applied in an organized environment," explains Shaner. "Resurrecting and guiding that human core of your organization is the secret to leading and sustaining change," he adds.

Shaner pulls from his vast professional and personal experiences, including having been a member of the Olympic Valley USA Ski Team and a former Harvard University teacher, to lay out a seven-part "spiritual guide" for change:

  1. The Art of Preparation (Assessment)
  2. The Art of Compassion (Participation)
  3. The Art of Responsibility (Accountability)
  4. The Art of Relaxation (Clarity, Focus, Visibility)
  5. The Art of Conscious Action (Execution)
  6. The Art of Working Naturally (Sustainability)
  7. The Art of Service (Generosity)

Even if you don't fully appreciate his blending of Western business savvy with Eastern philosophy, the 184-page book, readable in an afternoon, is pertinent and timely. Most important, he teaches business leaders and nonprofit executive directors why they need to change the way they lead change.

Some of my favorite parts of the book are:

  • Most leaders miss the fact that every employee possesses a latent willingness to change. Leaders often ignore the fact that personal progress is one of our strongest human desires. Your job as the leader is to connect the new business need with an opportunity for personal progress.
  • Organizations that evidence compassion listen to each other in order to understand and connect to more effective outcomes, not in order to place blame or assert their own way of doing things. Listening is the root of collaboration, root-cause analysis, and effective teamwork. It is also the single greatest source of establishing unity from top to bottom and bottom to top.
  • Regardless of the conditions surrounding your change, your employees will perform to the peak of their ability if they are driven from a collective inner strength brought on by clarity of purpose, focus of requirements, and visibility of progress.
  • Your employees' daily actions must be consciously meaningful to both the business initiative as well as to them personally.