If change is here to stay, as the saying goes, you might as well welcome it as an honored guest and look for the good rather than view it as an unwanted visitor you can’t wait to get rid of.
With that in mind, Sam and Brenda Chand could be thought of as friend-brokers, helping people find the best when change comes knocking at their door, either in pursuit of a dream or in response to a crisis. While Sam focuses on guiding organizations through change as a consultant and advisor, Brenda’s emphasis is on training and developing life coaches through an International Coaching Federation-accredited program.
Through his leadership writing and speaking and the Sam Chand Leadership Institute, and Dream Releaser Coaching, which they cofounded, the Chands have helped countless thousands find their way into their preferred futures.
With new books on the topic of change from their unique perspectives just releasing (Change Has Changed: Time for a Strategic Reset (Avail) by Sam Chand; You Can Coach: A Practical Guide to Coaching in Everyday Life (Inspire) by Brenda Chand), Inspire spoke with them about some of what they have learned.
Inspire: We’ve all had to deal with change over the last 18 months; what have you observed about that?
Sam: There have been two very distinct categories. There have been the resistors and those who are willing to go with what has happened. And, because a lot of changes have been initiated by authority figures—be it the CEO or executive director or the government—there has been a very high level of suspicion, and then you have to work to bring people along.
Brenda: Most of my experience was on a personal level, where change came out of the blue. There was no time, or very little time, to plan… On a personal level it was very good to have the changes, to slow down. Sam was traveling like 200 flights a year and it just all came to a screeching halt and we were here at home together.
Sam: I don’t want to go back to the way things were, personally. Change can be very good even when it is forced on us. It was for many businesses; ask Amazon! We do business at a UPS store near our home, and the owner told me he made more money in 2020 from March to May, than he did all year.
Inspire: How are the ways you each help others with change, as a consultant (Sam) and a coach (Brenda), different?
Sam: The principles for change organizationally or personally sometimes overlap and sometimes they are separate. But in every kind of change, whether organizational or personal, we cannot forget the human factor—now more than before, because you never know where people are coming from, what the challenges are, what they got used to, what they’ve enjoyed, the traumatic effects that change has had on their lives.
Almost everybody knows somebody who lost somebody to death in the pandemic, so grief has become a part of everyone’s fabric. I think if there was ever a time that we needed more empathy, connectedness, allowing for people’s heightened or exaggerated responses—I’m not saying exaggerated in a bad way, just that they’re bigger than they normally would have been—it is now.
Brenda: You always have to take the human factor into consideration, of course. I think the same principles do apply, but it just requires a softer touch in your personal life than in an organization. I don’t think there should be a top-down approach; it’s more of a consensus when you’re talking personally than it would be in an organization.
When coaching others, I try to let the change (unless forced) be the client’s idea. When it becomes the individual’s idea change is longer lasting, especially behavioral change. The sooner it becomes self-directed and self-managed, the better.
Inspire: How does our personality affect our openness or resistance to change?
Sam: We all have a personality predisposition, and I think that is being emphasized by social media. People read the same blogs, the same things in Twitter and Instagram and they become emboldened in their resistance to change because they feel like they are not alone in what they are feeling.
Brenda: It has to be a self-discovery thing. The very best type of change is when someone has an “aha” moment… It’s really about self-awareness and how quickly that happens depends on how deeply you explore and how open you are.
Inspire: Are change and growth the same thing?
Sam: They’re definitely very different from each other. You can change without growing—people do it all the time—but if you are growing you will change! You can change jobs without growing, you can change industries without growing. In my book Leadership Pain, I talk about how growth equals change, change equals loss, loss equals pain, and therefore growth equals pain.
Brenda: Change is a constant. Not all growth is positive; if you’re growing a garden and you have weeds, they’re growing, but it’s not a positive thing. I have a good friend who says many people don’t grow up, they just grow old. No change, no growth.
Inspire: What are some core principles to remember when facing change?
Sam: In most organizations, people are not really talking about what is working and what is not working. They talk more about who is working and who is not working, so that they deal more with personalities rather than the issue.
When a company introduces new software, say, rarely do supervisors talk to the people and say, ‘Hey, we’d love for you to give us some feedback on the software you’re using. How’s it working for you? What’s not working for you? If you could improve something, make it easier for you, what would that be? Because we want to make sure that you are happy and that you’re going to do your work effectively.’
We don’t ask those kinds of questions. We respond to some complaint, when somebody got frustrated because they were not able to access that portal or create that report or view that document or send an email directly from here to there kind of thing. Whatever their pressure point is, that’s what they end up talking about. So, we make gap changes, when we just keep responding with Band-Aids. I’ve known of organizations who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on software and keep changing it because of Band-Aids.
Brenda: One of Sam’s foundational principles about change is that all change will be misunderstood by someone and not everyone will be happy. And then there is the importance of your expectations, because when you make a change, things will get worse before they get better.
One of the biggest things to remember is that all change needs a transition plan, where it’s not just going to be that one day the software change happens. Change imposed is change opposed. If it’s top-down, it’s going to be opposed.
Sam: A lot of times, organizations want to change their delivery system, they want to change their structure or their systems, but they have not thought through what’s the impact? You can only do so much change before the stretching becomes unhealthy. Before you introduce change, you have to create the culture that embraces the outcome, not the change. It is important to prepare people for change, to create the climate, the atmosphere, the cultural change and get people to buy into the ultimate outcome.
Often, we don’t take people on a journey. We announce changes, and therefore you have challenges in the transition, and they don’t work out because we have not made people part of the journey.
Brenda: There is a readiness factor. You have to be ready to change. When I was doing my dissertation, the person who was guiding me through it said to me, “When the pain of not doing it becomes greater than the pain of doing it, then you’ll go ahead and get it done.” It depends on your pain level as to how much you can handle and how much you want to get that pain resolved.
Inspire: What are some ways to prepare well for change?
Sam: I like to try to find champions who can champion my message—build a coalition, a cohort of leadership that will become messengers for my message. I also want very regular feedback, so that I can make adjustments, because whatever changes are made in the moment of a catastrophic situation will need to be adjusted.
Inspire: How have you navigated change together?
Brenda: First you need to agree upon a change, and that comes with some collaboration and negotiating. When Sam went from being a university president to being a full-time consultant it was a huge change in our life, and it was one that we contemplated for a long time.
Sam: You have to be ready to negotiate with one another and make amendments. Change also has to do with the age and stage you’re in; that makes a difference too. As you get older, you say, “Eh, it’s not that big a deal,” and you go with it. You don’t give it as much energy or thought as you might have done in the past.
Inspire: With couples, often one will be more visionary than the other. How do you make that work?
Brenda: In our case, we kind of take turns being visionary; we support each other’s vision. I've always supported whatever he wanted to do, and he’s always pushed me beyond my comfort level, so we both kind of go back and forth. His life’s mission is to help others succeed. My life mission is when I become aware, I must share, and I do that through teaching, mentoring, coaching and by example.
Sam: We just try to help people dream and encourage them to follow through. Some seasons, she’s more visionary than me, then I am more visionary than her. As a couple, we know that whatever we’re talking about, neither one of us is going to be unbiblical or unethical or immoral, and that makes it easier to know that I’m for her and she’s for me—we’re not against each other.
We also give each other time for the idea to grow. Brenda is more contemplative than I am; I am more prone to, okay, give me the information and let’s make a decision. I can make far-reaching, long-term decisions in a very short meeting. Brenda, on the other hand, needs to reflect, which has been good for us because she is my counterbalance.
Brenda: Sometimes, I will say, “I disagree with you, but if that’s what you want to do, go ahead and do it.”
Sam: She has been the voice of caution and slowed things down. But in certain areas, she is much more visionary than me. I think we are at a place in our life where I appreciate her being pensive and contemplative and she’s trusted me a little bit more to make my spontaneous decisions and go with it.
Inspire: What has been the most challenging change you have faced and come through together?
Brenda: When we decided to get married; it was a huge decision in the seventies and in the deep South. He was Indian and I was as white as it gets; it was a big controversy… terrible things were happening to interracial couples. It was a struggle, and then, fortunately we were just out of college about a year and a half and a friend of ours called and asked Sam to be an assistant and youth pastor in Portland, Oregon. So, we moved from the deep South into kind of a melting pot where things were more acceptable, and we didn’t have the day-to-day pressure of “You’re an interracial couple.”
Sam: I had to give up my country to live here; she had to give up what the majority of society was saying to her, so that was a risk. But my last decision, to leave the university, was a game-changer in a good way. I was working the least I’ve ever worked in my life and making more money than I’d ever made in my life. The Lord had allowed me to create an organization with five vice-presidents who ran the day-to-day things; I was in the office just two days a week. I was living the American dream: work less, make more.
Nobody in my ecosystem really understood why I would want to leave that and go to something that had no security. Brenda and I talked about it for three years and that was the biggest change, because it had the potential of changing our lifestyles.
Inspire: What do you do when a couple doesn’t share a dream or vision equally?
Sam: I run into that in my consulting work on a pretty regular basis. I have to step back and ask, “Are they for each other?” And usually the answer’s yes; they want the other person to succeed. If that’s the case, then it’s beautiful. There may be a matter of timing, a matter of resources, a matter of amending it to move it this way a little bit, or that way.
I have to answer the relationship question first. I say to them, “I’m a consultant, not a counselor. You all need counseling to figure out your marriage before we talk about this thing here.”
Brenda: In our case, we compromise, waiting for the right timing.
Inspire: How has your understanding of change changed?
Sam: I am a spontaneous change guy; I like making decisions. I like making decisions for others. I think decision-making is the highest gift human beings have been given. But I am more spontaneous; Brenda is more contemplative and reflective. So, for me, I have realized I need to change at the pace of the other person.
For example, if I have something consequential to decide about, I say to her, “Hey, there’s something I want to talk about, can we talk about it in a few days or in the morning?” The main thing is not expecting her to come up with quick answers.
Brenda: Sometimes he will ask me a question and I’m silent for a while, and I say, “I’m thinking about it,” and he says, “I know.” He is satisfied with me saying, “Let me think about it.”
If there’s one thing I have learned about change, it’s that if you make a bad decision, you can live it out. Especially with financial things. We look at the worst case; what’s the worst that could happen? You could lose a home; you could lose a car; look at the what-ifs and then make a decision.
Inspire: How has marriage changed you?
Brenda: In every way, from being a loner to sharing and collaborating, and then finally realizing that two heads are better than one. I have changed in every area of life, really.
Sam: It’s made me softer. She has taught me how to love. I’m not as goal-driven. Brenda is the smartest person I know, the wisest person I know. She’s helped me more than any other human being I’ve known. She believed in me, she’s helped me, she has supported me and she has given up a lot for us to be able to do what we do, and I appreciate that.
This article was extracted from Issue 3 of Inspire Magazine (Fall 2021). Learn how to get your copy of Inspire Magazine.