Change or Progress?

What’s the difference?

When we change something we make it different than it was. That difference may also be seen and felt as positive, depending on our point of view, but there is no certainty of an association between the two. Change is different but change is not necessarily better.

If we make progress on something we have definitely changed the nature and shape of it. We also tend to have positive feelings about ourselves when we make progress because what we’ve done is in service of a larger goal. By definition, it speaks to an intention to get from one place to another. One of the biggest reasons I still read “real” books – the ones with pages – is the visible and tangible feeling of progress as I make my way through the story. Every time I replace my bookmark on a new page it’s a literal measure of how far I’ve come. The page counter on the screen of an e-reader just doesn’t do that for me.

As a leader, are you leading change or leading progress? If it’s the former you may be caught in the swirl of different for the sake of difference; new approaches born of a desperate need to differentiate in a confusing world. If it’s the latter, you have likely articulated a clear and compelling vision for the future and are taking the necessary next steps to bring it to fruition. Progress is purposeful and connected while change is frenetic and reactive. Moving towards instead of moving against.

When we keep people in a state of disconnected and misunderstood change we elevate and sustain their cynicism, making “here we go again” the refrain of the faithless.

When we connect people to progress we help them build their esteem, activate their learning and associate with something larger than themselves, an aspiration living within us all.

Our language matters. As does our intention. Change is different. And possibly better. Progress is different, too. And it’s  how we will create the future.

I vote for progress.