Why Fixers Often Fail

Very few individuals or organizations want to be talked about as if they need to be fixed.

Doing so implies that we're broken or I'm broken.  Doing so turns us into the objects of attention or effort from someone else who presumably is whole … someone fixin' to do some fixing.  Something is going to be done to us, instead of with us.

That never feels good even if the assessment that change is needed may indeed be right.  And this is one reason why such efforts are resisted.

Change agents too easily forget that you can't expect people to respect your ideas if those same people feel you don't respect them—not necessarily their ideas even—but them as capable, caring human beings.  This is true whether you are trying to reform schools in your community, foster more innovation in your association, or affect public policy in government.

Worse yet is when an organization or community feels outsiders are approaching them much in the way a flipper deals with a house in foreclosure.  Everything in their demeanor suggests they are temporary transplants ready to flip their way to their next success, ripping out what's wrong and replacing it with stock solutions, often achieving a short-term gain that is neither desirable nor sustainable for the long-haul.

The next time you're tempted to carry your well-stocked toolbox into a meeting, you might first stop and think if anyone called for repairs and recalibrate your approach accordingly.  Instead of presenting solutions, heed the advice of Edgar Schein and use your voice to help surface information.

Bottom line?
It's hard to lead people to a better future if your tone or approach leaves them feeling bitter or broken.