Leading (and not Managing) Through Change: Part II

March 14th, 2014 by Marcy Schwab

Leading (and not Managing) Through Change: Part II

Change is scary and often very difficult.  But change brings possibility and opportunity. We can either let it happen to us or we can embrace and take advantage of whatever prospects it affords us.  How can we take advantage of our new situation?

Change is Hard and Change is Scary.

We already covered why change is scary.  Change is scary because you have no idea what’s coming.  It’s the anticipation of the change that makes it scary.

But that’s different from change being hard.  Change is hard because you have to accept the change (see Part I) and then you have to do something about it.  Instead of going about your daily routine in which you are comfortable, you need to start thinking about every step.

Think about your daily commute. You could do that drive or take that train half asleep with ease. How often do you change your commuting pattern? Probably never, right? And if you do, it’s because there’s an accident and an alternative route is faster. Imagine that you have to follow the detour signs. Think about how much more effort it takes to pay attention to the turns that are coming and how they help you stay on track. You feel discombobulated and out of sorts, and by the time you get to work, your stress levels are high. Change is hard.


Types of Change (One version)

In this version, I’m dividing change into two types:

1.  Ones that you initiate

2.  Changes that “happen to you”

Let’s start with changes that you initiate.  On the surface, you would think that this type of change would be easier to manage or lead through because you have taken responsibility for the initiation of this new direction.  Make no mistake, self-initiated change is still really difficult, even when you initiate it.  Why?

First, like all change you lose some semblance of control over your own destiny.  Even more to the point here, even though you have initiated the change, you still have to accept it and lead yourself through it.   In some ways this kind of change is harder to lead and manage through than the other type of change: the one that “happens to you”.

Think about that.  You have to accept a change you have decided to make. It means letting go of the old and inviting the new.There is self-imposed pressure that you have put on yourself, and now you have to hold yourself accountable. That’s really scary (you don’t know what’s coming) and hard (once you know what’s coming, you have to actually do it).

Now let’s explore the changes that “happen to you”.  These are obviously different from the changes that are self initiated.  These feel like they are happening despite your interest and may not make sense at first. People “at the top” are making changes that impact you and now you have to deal with it.

Like self-initiated change, you need to learn to accept that it’s happening. Like all difficult situations, it’s easy to go into denial. No, this isn’t really happening. I can ignore it, right? Change will happen and it won’t impact me? Again, you need to accept the change and then lead you and/or your team through it.  Assess the situation and give yourself time to get your head around it.


Build Self Awareness

Awareness is the ability to see what’s happening inside of you and to notice it from the outside.  The exercise of thinking about what kind of change person you are (see Part I) is an exercise in self awareness.  Understanding your assumptions and biases are incredibly important to objectively assessing yourself and your surroundings.  Awareness leads to movement of one’s self.

Figure out what about change is hard for you? How can you tell that you are about to encounter something difficult or challenging? Is there a story in your head that you are telling yourself? Is there something in your body that tells you that stress is mounting?


Look Up from the Bottom

Otherwise known as “suck it up”.  And then suck it in. Once you are at the bottom, then you have the opportunity to move up. When you look up from the bottom, literally stretch your body out, look up, and take a deep breath. Now, what do you see?  Open your eyes to what is now possible because of the change that you are in.


Reframe the Change 

The change is happening, but what you do about is well within your power. Ask yourself some questions that will help you see this change in a new way:

What’s good about it?

What’s possible now that wasn’t available before?

What’s difficult?

What can I do to make the things that are difficult less daunting?

How do other people see the new situation?

What facts am I missing?

Building self awareness, being able to look up from the bottom, and reframing the change can help you lead through change in a way that leads you to a better situation and one in which you will be happier and more comfortable.

Comments are closed.