The only constant in life is change.  Change may happen slowly or quickly, may be visible or hidden, and can be self initiated or thrust upon us.  Some people are motivated by change—change agents.  Others are more cautious and too fragmented “reactive,” but eventually respond.  Still others fight it.  Change may create fear when it causes people to move out of their familiar and efficient “comfort zone.”  This leads to resistance.

Resistance to change is normal.  Don’t think of resistance as something to be eliminated, rather look at resistance as something people need to work through with a coach or someone they can talk to.  On the positive side, resistance protects us from mistakes, bad decisions, or things we don’t what to happen.  On the negative side, it can paralyze us, cause us to miss opportunities, and create irrational perspectives about change.  The best way to address it is to surface the resistance, explore it, see possibilities, and work through it intermittently with a controlled pace.

Frequently change is perceived as unpleasant and disruptive, and therefore avoided.  However, change is neither good nor bad.  It is both a neutral and a completely natural process.  People can choose to focus on the benefits of change and accept the work to achieve them (positive outlook); or focus on the losses, complain, and worry (the negative outlook).

There are four basic emotional experiences associated with change:

(1) Contentment:  a lack of urgency or felt need to change,
(2) Denial:  renouncing, reject and delaying the inevitable,
(3) Chaos:  confusion and inability to adapt,
(4) Renewal:  committing to something new and seeing the payoffs.

When change unfolds, we have different levels of control over.  The first level is sometimes referred to as our sphere of control (we are in the driver’s seat).  The second is called our sphere of influence (we only have enough power to possibly modify the situation).  The third level is where we have little control (only be able to control our outlook, emotions, attitudes, or learning).

Change will occur at many levels.  It can appear within ourselves, in our relationships with others, in our work processes or operations, in the way we organize, and in our strategy, direction or goals.  All of this change affects people in different ways.  It can be both exciting and frightening at the same time.  As an individual leader of yourself or others, awareness is the key, how people are managing change.  Keep an open mind and accept others who may be feeling stuck, trapped, or hurt by change.  Open up a dialogue and gain an accurate perspective of change.

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About the Author
Steven Stowell, Ph.D.
Dr. Steven J. Stowell is the Founder and President of the Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness, Inc. CMOE was created in 1978 for the purpose of helping individuals and teams maximize their effectiveness and create strategic competitiveness. Steve’s special interests lie in helping leaders and organizations transform into high-performance cultures that are focused on long-term, sustained growth.

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