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Frustration and Turbulence


This insightful video explores the dynamics of frustration and turbulence within the context of personal and organizational development. It delves into the idea that frustration, often viewed negatively, can be a powerful catalyst for change, indicating a strong commitment to action. Drawing parallels from naval experiences, the author likens turbulence to a positive force that disrupts the status quo, creating opportunities for change. The video emphasizes the significance of identifying individuals or groups acting as “trim tabs” – catalysts for change. It navigates through personal and team-oriented challenges, offering a fresh perspective on leveraging frustration and turbulence as allies in the journey of transformation.

Video Transcript

Frustration and turbulence. Your friends in a change process. This may sound really strange, but actually both frustration and turbulence can be utilized in your favor when you’re in a change process. Let’s address frustration first. How many times have you thought, I can’t do this? I’m so frustrated that people around us are frustrated. We don’t know what to do. When I enter an organization and my client says people around here are really frustrated, I go, all right, this is fabulous. And they look at me like I’m crazy. Why is that? Well, people are only frustrated if they’re attempting to achieve something and are being blocked or stopped in some way. So the stronger the frustration, the stronger the commitment to action. So actually, the frustration reveals where the blocks are, where people are frustrated can point you to the very things that need to change. So in a really fascinating way, frustration is a focuser of your attention in a change process. Frustration is a sign of commitment, and turbulence is a sign of possibility. And they often go together. Turbulence where things are not, where there’s chaos. Sometimes people are really concerned about chaos where there’s a lot of turbulence. And I say turbulence is another really, really good friend in a change process. Why is that? Well, I’m going to go back to my experience in the US Navy on my ship, the USS Eaton, a destroyer, for a couple of years, we were the plane guard assigned to a company, the USS Enterprise.

Everywhere she went, she was the largest warship on the planet, nuclear-powered, multiple propellers and so forth. She was very, very, very fast. The difficulty was when the engineers were designing a ship this size. When she’s going really fast, it’s very difficult for the ship to turn because of what’s called laminar flow. So if this is the rudder looking at it from the top. The water is flowing in such a coherent, such a congruent way around the rudder that it makes it impossible for the rudder to turn, no matter how much force or power they put into trying to turn the rudder. The water wouldn’t let it go. So at the very end of the rudder, there’s a small zone of turbulence. And this is what happens. The trim tabs, little teeny trim tabs were designed into the rudder. These are tiny little tabs that turn first. And when they turn, they create turbulence around the rudder into which the rudder can turn. So in a fascinating way, turbulence breaks down or disturbs, disturbs the way things are so that change can occur.

So what you have here when the ship is trying to turn, the trim tabs turn first, create turbulence around the rudder and the water so that the ship or in this case, the organization can turn. So you want people who are trim tabs. Who are those people that change first. What are those situations that sort of get it, and they change, and that people are upset with them and they create turbulence? Those people are creating turbulence. And if you’re the leader of a change process, you should. So this is fabulous because now we’ve broken down, we’ve disturbed the water, we’ve disturbed the culture, we’ve disturbed the flow of business as usual so that possibly change can happen. So a couple of thoughts about application. What are you or the people around you frustrated about and what commitment does that reveal? Where does that point your change initiative? That’s the first thing to use with frustration. And secondly, who are the trim tab, the trim tab people or the groups that are creating turbulence in the culture, turbulence in the business as usual? And how can you go there and support them and see if some kind of change experiments might not be possible? Frustration and turbulence. Your two new friends in your change process.

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