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Search for Meaning



Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning  may be considered one of the most influential and poignant books of the 20th century.  The book chronicles the lived experiences of Viktor Frankl,  who was an Auschwitz Concentration Camp prisoner during World War II. Not only does Frankl detail his experiences but he develops conclusions to how one can find meaning in life, even in dire circumstances.  According to Frankl, meaning can be found by:

-Experiencing reality by interacting authentically with the environment and with others

-Giving something back to the world through creativity and self-expression

-Changing our attitude when faced with a situation or circumstance that we cannot change

I’ve read this book a number of times throughout my career and at different life stages and thought about the application, not only to myself, but to my clients and the work that I do as a change consultant. In organizational changes, we know it is the convergence of organizational and individual change that truly drives performance and transformation. Often, however,  I’ve seen organizations minimize/diminish/negate the importance of an individual change strategy that works to capture the hearts and minds of employees who will be tasked with executing those changes. This can be especially daunting when employees may not support the change, feel like they are being forced to change without a say, or simply may not understand the logic of the changes. Frankl would suggest that in those situations, you must look inward and find ways to change yourself, your attitude and ultimately your behaviors.  And, a good starting point for helping employees change themselves about a situation is capturing the emotion/feelings about a particular change. In the Heart of Change, Kotter suggests that being able to see and feel the change is much more powerful than analyzing and thinking about a change. So, if our change success can be bolstered by capturing the emotional side of change, why do so many organizations choose to ignore this element?  From my experiences, I believe there are two drivers that moves more organizations to the analytical side of change. (1) For over a century, our organizational models and they way we do work have supported an analytical/black and white/results driven approach to work and (2) given that has been our approach, we develop and value leadership that is in alignment with those goals.  Asking our change leaders to now embrace the softer side of change is not intuitive for many of them.  So, how do we start incorporating the feeling side of change?  I find many times just bringing awareness to different views on the change, being comfortable with having a conversation about those changes without an agenda or required output and asking employees to self-reflect and acknowledge their response to change, can be a powerful place to start. And, equally as important, as Frankl would suggest, being willing to change oneself can help bring more meaning and purpose to our lives, both professionally and personally.