What’s Your Cheese?

By Dean Crisp

December 14, 2020

In this week’s podcast, I talk with our Director of Business Development, Kelle Corvin, about the book, Who Moved My Cheese? Although the book was written more than 20 years ago, the principles in that book hold true for leaders today. In the book, we meet four mice as the main characters. Sniff and Scurry use their unique skills to detect that things are changing with what had been their ever-available supply of cheese. Meanwhile, the other two Hem and Haw fail to see that change is coming. When their cheese finally moves, Sniff and Scurry move along to look for a new source of cheese while Hem and Haw struggle with change.

As we near the end of what has been a year of change – 2020, it is a great opportunity as leaders to reflect on exactly what your cheese is. Defining what you hold dear. Who or what you may take for granted. What would happen if you suddenly found your cheese moved? Many have analyzed and written about the lessons to learn from this book and we certainly discussed them in the podcast. What I want to focus on in this post is how exactly do you define your cheese? You see, many of us never really know what our “cheese” is until we lose it.

  • Determine what your cheese is: know what you hold dear. Is it your job? Is it your family? Is it a prized possession? Take some time to list those things that are most important to you. You can’t really prepare for your cheese to be moved, until you clearly identify who or what your cheese is.
  • Be sure that you understand why that is your cheese: This may be the longest part of this process, but definitely the most valuable. Determining your cheese is often centered around your values and convictions. As an example, if your job is a “cheese” in your life, do you know why it is? Were you instilled with values of hard work and commitment? You may think that as long as you work hard, you will always have a job. However, you may not recognize the changes occurring around you that are signaling that you may no longer offer the skills the organization needs.
  • Once you know your cheese, what are you doing to keep it fresh: So, you’ve identified what your cheese is and why it’s important to you, now you can spend some time understanding what you need to do to keep it fresh. Are you spending time with those individuals that are most important to you? Are you monitoring and opening your eyes to the actions and activities going on around you that may impact a job you hold dear. Putting a system that works for you into place that ensures your cheese is staying fresh.
  • Know that the cheese eventually gets old: Accept that change occurs in all relationships we have be them friendships, romantic relationships and familial relationships. Are you seeing the change and embracing it? Or are you resisting it and keeping your head in the proverbial sand? Those leaders who see the change coming will be able to adapt much more quickly.
  • Finally, embrace the change and know that often your new cheese is way better than the old: Now this doesn’t mean you give up your spouse or your kids, but it does mean that you embrace the reality that relationships are with people and that people grow and change. Accepting the change and supporting the transformation of a child that grows into an adult whom you enjoy spending time with as a co-equal and not lamenting the fact that they are no longer your little girl or boy makes life exciting and is a great example of seeing the new cheese better than the old. You can remember the child and be proud of who’ve they have become. Same with a spouse who wants to make a career change. Are you supportive or resisting? Why are you resisting their desire to change? Most often it is out of fear of the unknown. Talk it through with them and really listen to what their “why” is. It will help you understand and embrace their desire to change. This same process can be applied to the workplace.

In summary, don’t ignore or refuse to see “the handwriting on the wall” Take time often to examine your beliefs and values to see if they are causing you to NOT see the new cheese and to hold onto the OLD cheese. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. This year 2020 has certainly taught all of us to do that. Each day, week, month has brought new changes and new cheese. Some good, some bad and many are suffering from what I call change fatigue. To manage your cheese, try to not be so focused that change will come, but are you actually heading in the right direction. Remember, it isn’t the size of the step but the direction that matters.


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