Why Change Is So Hard And How To Lead And Be the Change In 5 Simple Steps Intelligenthq
We live in a time of ever accelerating transformation and change, right? Technologies have transformed our industrial economies into services and now the Innovation economy. The way we communicate, stay in touch, share ideas and emotions are transforming and often enriching our personal lives.
If “CHANGE” is the only constant in life, shouldn’t we are getting used to it? Why is change often so scary? Why do we and the people around us don´t see the opportunities, but only the risks involved in change ? Why is it so hard to get out of the comfortable status quo we are in right now, to move forward into a future that might bring us benefit ? What is it that still hold us on to the past? Where do we find the energy in us? Where is it? Why is it not there? If you are comfortable in one place, you need some energy to move forward.
The answer to these questions might be a simple one: it is because we are human. We have emotions, and very often, our emotions get the better of us. Especially when confronted with traumatic transformational change.
Professor Nancy Schlossberg developed her Transition Theory since 1984 and refined and shared it over the last decades. For myself as well as for the people we work with, this model of transition finally makes sense of much of the difficulties when dealing with people in a transformation process or change management situation.
Schlossberg’s model explains the emotional roller coaster we are going through when confronted with radical transformation. When something big or traumatic happens to us or around us or with us, the first , often overwhelming emotion we feel is denial.
Eventually, though, the facts of reality sink in and often strong fear and anxiety take over as the dominant feelings. Even if we control the fear, it still dictate our few and limits our capacity to rational (and optimistic) thinking. Those fear are primal and on the lowest level of Maslow’s pyramid of needs. We ask ourselves, what we should do now. What does it mean for us and our way of life? Will we have enough to eat? Will we have a roof over our head? Will we be loved and accepted? No wonder people feel stressed with such worries and try to even avoid thinking about the situation and ignore the transformation or request made to them as long as possible.
But if things work out well, and we don’t get stuck in this depressed and unproductive phase, we will try to cope with the transformation. We will discover potential new ways and practice new behaviors and skills. Some might work, some might not, but that is the learning cycle from which eventually new talents and opportunities are born. When the stress and fear subside and we discover the opportunities in the transformation; eventually excitement and a positive future outlook take over.
We might get so motivated, that we want to change the world, and want to change everybody around us and with us. And then realize everybody else – while we are super enthusiastic – might be still on the other side of the emotional roller coaster and be stuck in fear and anger and depression. Does it (nearly) always work like this? I think so. Depending on the severity of the trauma and many other psychological and environmental factors we might go through the phases in seconds and might not even be aware. But sometimes it takes years and unfortunately, sometimes people (and even complete organizations) get stuck somewhere in the middle of deep depression, paralysis, and fear.
So, now that we are aware how do we get ourselves and the people around us through the emotional phases as efficiently and with as little pain as possible? How do we take our scared self and the other people with us into a brighter future through this emotional roller-coaster?
Follow these winning steps:
- Have a clear vision: Have a super clear, short, crisp and positive vision of the future ideal end-state after the transformation is completed. Michael Porter’s research is clear, that 80% of all change management projects fail because they don’t have a good vision.
- Be clear on the impact of both the transformation happening and not happening: Be very clear in the doom and gloom scenario and negative impact if we don’t move. But also show in vivid colors the positive impact, the opportunities for the organization, the business and the individuals that are willing to address their fears and concerns and replaces those emotions with a search for opportunities, and to some positive image to hold on and from which we get the energy. That positive image will get you or your organisation through the emotions curve and will enable you to drive things forward.
- Communicate clearly and often: If you’re dealing with someone who is in denial or in deep fear, they will not be capable of reading a five page document, so you have to be very clear and crisp and make it clear what is in it for them, why they don’t have to be afraid. Let them know how they can help to move things forward, and make it better. Over-communicate, again and again and again according to where somebody is on the emotional curve. It doesn’t matter if you’re enthusiastic, if they’re afraid, you need to be addressing them where they are and to deal with their fears.
- Don’t do it alone. It is teamwork that makes the dream work: Build a team that helps you to understand the big picture. A diverse team with diverse viewpoints sharpens your vision, gets you a better strategy and a better execution plan. Beware that your allies are part of your team, as well as your change agents who will help the people and organizations for every stage of the emotional curve.
- You own the change: You are the leader of the change you want to see and you want to drive. Celebrate the victories, step by step while you’re going through this transformation. If people stay engaged they will see the progress and you might start a movement, and more and more people will join and support you in that journey. Celebrating success harnesses the energy and positive “change momentum”. You will need it again. Because one thing is sure, change is happening again. And if you have successfully managed to radical transformation once, the next transformation will not be easy, but it’s going to be easier.
We’re in a world full of opportunities. Some of them look scary, but they are definitely out there to make our world a better place. Every stage of the emotional roller coaster is normal and to be expected. When you are mindful and manage the emotions consciously, you can become the change you want to see in the world.
This article is based on a talk given by Mark at TEDxRainier in Seattle on November 10, 2012.
Other TED talks on “Change”
- TEDxPerth – Jason Clarke – Embracing Change ; ; 18:31
- Six keys to leading positive change: Rosabeth Moss Kanter at TEDxBeaconStreet ; ; 15:58
Prof. Mark Mueller-Eberstein is an internationally renowned business leader, entrepreneur, consultant, best-selling author, and a Professor at Rutgers University Center for Management Development. He leads “The Knowledge Economy Research Institute” as well as Adgetec Corporation’s consulting business. Using a cross-functional and international approach, his consulting company help current and future leaders align their business and technology strategies, and leverage opportunities. Mark is fascinated by the dynamic between the human and technical factors that positively impact business operations, and has advised business leaders from a variety of industries on these topics for over a decade. Mark has become one of the world’s leading experts on how businesses can leverage key technology trends to drive a competitive advantage and his books have been translated into a dozen languages.