From Oxymorons to Results: Creating a Place for Transformation

Gary Gray
Founder and CEO
Gray Institute

These days, we hear everyone from coaches to CEOs talking about “transformation” – changing the people they lead and, in turn, the status quo. But in reality, no one can “transform” anybody else. There is a way, however, to bring about transformation. It has to do with the endgame, truths, and a created environment.

It’s easy enough to state the endgame, or the results you want. But truth – that’s not so simple. Most truths are embodied in seemingly contradictory statements that inspire insights needed to make change happen. At the Gray Institute for Functional Transformation, we call these “Transformational Paradoxical Oxymorons.” They’re transformational because our goal is change, paradoxical because the phrase seems contradictory, and oxymorons because the words don’t seem to make sense when they’re put side by side.

Paradoxes as Truths

Let’s look at an example. To effectively hit a golf ball, I need mobility and stability. It is mobility in the backswing and in the follow through that allows for strength and stability for a powerful swing. Therefore, I need the proper integration of these opposites to produce an effective and efficient swing. Once I accept this paradox as truth, I know how to train and condition to improve my golf game. Here’s another example: Servant Leadership. The message of this paradox is that we need to serve our fellow man before we can lead. When I accept this as a truth, I can transform into a leader.

When we accept paradoxes as truths, change becomes easy. Once we agree on a truth, however, unless we come up with a transformational strategy, nothing happens. But when we give people “paradoxical power,” allowing transformation to occur based on truth, then strategy becomes obvious and the technique becomes the easy part. This is the secret to transforming the notion – what we know to be true – into the motion – acting on it.

Enabling Transformation

The most powerful thing about transformation is that we’re truly not changing the value of something, but morphing it into another form – like water into ice or steam. We’re not trying to get people to be what they’re not, but to create environments where we can bring out their giftedness, allowing transformation to take place on its own.

We have found that, in business, if we create an environment where people understand that their number-one goal in life is to serve others – from customers to coworkers – we can create a transformational change. No matter how different employees may be, if we can create an environment where they realize the effect of that service, a transformation takes place.

When we create an environment like this – a culture, value system, and common goals that will help everyone understand the endgame and become engaged in the basic philosophies – there isn’t anything we can’t do. We aren’t making the transformation, but we are providing the environment for change and the tools to make it work.

A transformation environment requires encouragement and experience. People have to know they matter. Then, if we give people a chance to give to others, we’ve hooked them. As soon as employees know they have their own transformational power and understand the principle of Transformational Paradoxical Oxymorons, they can and will serve their leaders, their coworkers, and their customers.