Navigating the Cycle of Change
When people have been doing something for a long time, they function in a zone, like a peak athlete that doesn’t have to think about what they are doing. A little effort can get a lot done. People feel useful and effective because they produce good results with ease. Their brain is hard-wired with this pattern. When you ask them to change (Event), they now have to stop and think more often. More effort is required to accomplish what was previously easy. That is why you get OMGYG2BK (defined below in #2) from them. When you accept that resistance is a natural preliminary response and that there is a cycle people go through before they are fully on board, it is easier to adjust to the needs of the team and lead them through.
A bank implements a sales system after years of serving customers who walked in their doors. A large software firm ships its support functions to India. A medical office must put all client information online. These are examples of events that elicit resistance to change. People are afraid of what might happen to them and their co-workers. Their survival and safety systems kick in, in varying degrees, depending on how much stress they are under in their lives.
The trite saying, “the only certainty is death and taxes” is often used to assuage resistance, making light of changing policies, procedures, schedules, responsibilities, locations and many different events that call for people to change the way they function and to adopt a new way. Examples may be given to help people get it, like saying “no matter how much we want to keep our hair from graying, our wrinkles from showing, our children from growing up and our co-workers in place, life continues to evolve and things change.” It may be true but it is not what people want to hear. They have gone from in control to out of control in a short period of time and want to take their power back.
Change brings up real issues for people, which are best anticipated and dealt with compassionately and proactively. People open to the possibility that change can be
an exhilarating, white-water rafting ride down the Rogue River instead of a battle of wills to maintain the status quo and that change is good when it produces faster, better, more efficient and cost effective ways of doing things.
Change is best when it develops better team leaders and members in the process.
Resistance is minimized by a pre-launch conversation, beginning long in advance of implementation, that includes the team in the process. This helps anticipate problems, prevent bottlenecks and create buy-in.
This is a text message for “Oh my God, you’ve got to be kidding!”
It is not appropriate to disclose some information in advance, like mergers and acquisitions. The following example of how I once engaged a reorganization walks you through the cycle of change. It is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Take Your Power Back.
“There was a time when a small business banking team I was managing went on a roller coaster ride of five reorganizations in a two-year time frame. Each time the bank downsized, merged or reorganized, the new leadership team would ask us to get our team on board with the latest mission statement. My team members pushed back saying, “What’s the point? They don’t care about us, why should we care about them?”, “What about those who got laid off?” and “What if we’re next?”
During times of change an overactive imagination can stir up worries and concerns about a future that may or may not occur. Creating an appropriate time and place that allows people to vent and feel heard, diffuses emotions and gets people linked to their receptivity channel so ideas and strategies can be shared and considered.“
The question mark stands for the importance of leaders staying in the question rather than telling people how to feel or what to do.
“One morning shortly after I encountered resistance from my team, I took them off site and let them vent. When they were complete, instead of telling them “just park it at the door and get to work…”, I put up a flip chart and asked, “What’s the purpose of a mission statement?” Everyone agreed that organizations use them to get everyone unified behind products, services and intended results and are more successful when they do. Then I asked, “What if we use the same principle and name our own personal mission so our work would not only help the organization accomplish its mission, it would more importantly be a way we fulfill our own?”
After the team felt heard, they were ready to consider this question. To further emphasize the benefit of this idea, I asked, “What if you are downsized out? What are your options? Do you go to the next organization and say, “I got downsized out and I am looking for a job.” Or, do you go to them saying, “I come to you from an organization that went through lots of change. In the process of making the best of it, I learned my own mission. I notice your company has a similar mission. That is why I am knocking on your door.” Then I asked them, “Which one would you hire?” and “Which one would you keep?” They could see how much more powerful the later option was and opened to using the events we were going through to take their Power back.“
K is text for okay I will try it.
“Just making the decision was a start. It didn’t take away their concerns altogether. It did allow for safety and a container to facilitate rants on difficult days. There was a difference though. Now the purpose of the rant was to blow off fear and anger steam with the intention to shift from the old mindset into a new position of choice and greater personal Power.”
CID is text for consider it done.
“We refused to be victims to present time events and took charge of our future. We became a team of people working with the changes, offering suggestions and playing the game, knowing that we were developing leadership skills and abilities in the process. In the fifth reorganization, my team disbanded. Two team members were promoted to managers and the others accepted positions with other teams doing what they loved most. No one lost his or her job. I was the only one who chose to take a three-month severance package, rather than another banking position.”
Leaders are challenged to meet people where they are and collaborate in times of change. When people are coached to use change as an opportunity to bring out personal and team bests, knowing that they create more options for themselves as they do, managers get the best results.
People want to feel in charge of their life. You give them that power when you proactively communicate coming changes well in advance, include them in the decision process before changes are made and give them the tools to navigate the cycle of change effectively.