Thursday, November 5, 2009

Facing Pain with Qubein

Nido knows about the process of change first-hand.

And what a pain in the ass it can be.

Broke and unable to speak English, Nido Qubein came to the United States when he was just 18 years old and now serves on the board and executive committee of a Fortune 500 financial corporation with $135 billion in assets and 35,000 employees. He is chairman of the Great Harvest Bread Company with 218 stores in 42 states and is an active speaker, addressing more than 100 business and professional groups around the world each year.

Nido's story about change is even more remarkable when you consider the findings of Dr. Raphael Levey, founder of the Global Medical Forum. According to Dr. Levey, "A relatively small percentage of the population consumes the vast majority of the health-care budget for diseases that are very well known and by and large behavioral. That is, they're sick because of how they choose to live their lives, not because of environmental or genetic factors beyond their control".

With about 80% of the health-care budget consumed by five behavioral issues - too much smoking, drinking, eating, and stress, and not enough exercise - the knockout blow on change is delivered by Dr. Edward Miller, CEO of the hospital at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Miller points out 600,000 people have bypasses every year in the United States, and 1.3 million heart patients have angioplasties -- all at a total cost of around $30 billion. But is this time and money well spent? As Dr. Miller explains, "If you look at people after coronary-artery bypass grafting two years later, 90% of them have not changed their lifestyle and that's been studied over and over and over again. Even though they know they have a very bad disease and they know they should change their lifestyle, for whatever reason, they can't."

BOTTOM LINE: The majority of us would rather die than change.

Changing behavior isn't just the biggest challenge in health care. It's the #1 issue facing businesses trying to compete in a turbulent world. John Kotter, a Harvard Business School professor who has studied the upheaval of dozens of organizations, offers, "The central issue is never strategy, structure, culture, or systems. The core of the matter is always about changing the behavior of people. People may be called upon to respond to profound changes in the marketplace - the rise of a new global competitor, say, or a shift from a regulated to a deregulated environment -- or to a corporate reorganization, merger, or entry into a new business. And as individuals, we may want to change our own styles of work, yet more often than not, we can't".

BOTTOM LINE: The majority of companies would rather go bankrupt than change.

You already know life was never meant to be easy, and is nothing but a traffic jam of problems. The choice is whether to remain stuck in human gridlock and moan about issues or challenges or take steps to solve them along roads less traveled. But those initial steps often require a leap into the unknown. Martin Luther King Jr. may have explained it best: "Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step".

Change in your personal or professional life may not be necessary, but nobody said your survival was mandatory either.

Does your pain always have to be greater than your fear to change - even when you know, deep down, it's the right thing to do?

"The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers."

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