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Tips to Lead and Roll with Change

As COVID lingers on, I’ve noticed growing weariness of the accompanying uncertainty and sense that the ground keeps shifting. Most of the challenges we face are adaptive ones, meaning that WE have to change. This means flexing with changing circumstances and modifying the thoughts, actions and behaviors that aren’t serving us well.

A disorienting dilemma is frequently a catalyst to change. There’s much more motivation to make change when the stakes are high. There’s a paradox at work, however. While most people have a natural desire to evolve, there’s also comfort in the familiar, even when it’s not working as well as it might. This type of resistance to change sounds like: “We’ve always done things this way,” “Let’s wait and see,” or “If I/we make a change, it might be worse.”

Change pioneer, Robert Kegan of Harvard, refers to this resistance as immunity to change. To combat it:

  • Identify where and how things could be better.

  • Gather the facts and develop a rationale for change.

  • Create a compelling vision that you or those you lead can get invested in.

  • Build a sense of urgency by looking into the future a year or more and posing the question: “If I/we don’t take action now, what will be the consequences?”

Changes, even desirable and necessary ones, can be stressful and require extra mental and physical energy. Unanticipated changes are even more charged with emotion. Denial, anger and fear are common initial responses. If the change involves others, acknowledge that you’re aware it’s not easy. Give assurances that you’ll address unanticipated bumps in the road as they appear. What people dislike most about change is lack of communication and denial of the fallout.

You can increase your own change resilience by keeping an open mind, learning from experience, and looking for the opportunity in change. Take ownership by knowing when to let go of resistance and focus instead on what you can control. Seek support from others. Whether you’re purposefully creating change or adjusting to it, take it one step at a time and build in short-term wins to keep spirits up. Think of yourself as the skipper of a sailboat. When the wind changes, as it frequently does, a skipper adjusts the sails and charts a new course.

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