Category Archives: leadership

The Emotional Journey through Change – Video

The idea that change involves some kind of loss is not a new one and yet it’s something we often overlook.

In this video, I go introduce the change curve (briefly) and suggest ways in which you can make your transition just that little bit less painful.

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Posted by on December 9, 2013 in change, leadership


Updated: Thriving through Change at Work.

I enjoyed this book because it recognises that change at work is an emotional process, affecting our self esteem and manifesting in physical affects.

The range of different sources and theories explained in this book flowed really well and have led me to read more widely, which is impressive as this is a subject I know really well so am very grateful for the new ideas.

(Amazon review for the first edition of Thriving through Change at Work.)

Book cover for Thriving through Change at WorkThe book has been updated with new material to help managers and team leaders to guide others through change.

The second edition includes:

– Changing involves Learning
A short section on Kolb’s cycle and how the model can help to raise our awareness of how our team members learn, an integral part of adapting to change.

– Reducing Fear of the Unknown.
Most of our resistance to change comes from not knowing what the future will bring. While it might not be possible to get rid of that fear all together, there are things that can be done to decrease it.

– Escalation of Commitment.
Don’t stick to your guns for the sake of it: make sure you don’t continue down the wrong path just to save face.

Currently the book is only available from the Kindle store, at a promotional price until the 19th August 2013.

Do let me know what you think of it if you buy it.

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Posted by on August 8, 2013 in change, leadership


Dealing with Resistance to Change Video

If you are dealing with change at work at the moment, this video might come in handy.

In just over five minutes, it covers the most common reasons why people resist change.


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Posted by on May 7, 2013 in change, leadership, video


Using the Change Curve in Communication during Change

Change theory is useful to help us begin to create some order in what is a very chaotic process: change. No matter how many processes or plans you include in your change management strategy, at some point change will be chaotic as it involves people. People are different from each other: they have different priorities in life, different concerns, different private lives, different reasons for coming into work, etc.

Change in an organisation might throw people into the unknown. Individuals might have to experience ways of working they hadn’t encountered before. It is therefore difficult to foresee how your team members will react: they might even be surprised themselves.

One very popular change model which might help during the management of change is the curve created by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. After interviewing cancer patients as they came to terms with their disease, Kubler-Ross found that individuals tipically went through five emotional stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally, acceptance. (If you enjoy watching Frasier, there is an episode which illustrates these stages of grief very well, I think it’s the first episode in series 6.)

Kubler-Ross then went on to research how this model fitted in with other life-changing experiences. It is worth saying at this point, that the psychologist was very aware that the model was just that, a model, and that the emotional journey through change is particular to each individual.

When facilitating discussion around personal change at work, I prefer to use the model created by Adams, Hayes and Hopson, who added a state of Shock/Relief at the beginning (also referred to as “immobilisation”) and the stages of experimentation and┬ádiscovery before the change is integrated.

Change Curve

It’s worth noting how much self-esteem rises and falls, how there are quite a few emotions involved in the process and the fact that it takes time to be comfortable with the change.

This model might help you to structure your communication during change or to give you an idea of how people in your team and organisation might behave during transitions. But this is not a blueprint. There are plenty of other emotions that will surface and they will not appear neatly one after the other. Hopefully the curve will help you to anticipate some problems.

So, as you manage change in your team:

  • Don’t be surprised if there is a loss of productivity when the change is announced as the information sinks in.
  • Set some time aside for people to vent their anger or frustration, so that they can get their anger (or fears, insecurities etc) off their chest. Even if the change is welcome or supposed to improve their conditions, self-esteem will drop at some point.
  • Be prepared to repeat information over and over again. It is difficult to assimilate or even hear new information when all sorts of emotions are bubbling up inside.

And above all, allow yourself to feel all sorts of emotions, it comes with the job.


Posted by on December 10, 2012 in change, leadership


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Why You Should Get Emotional During Change

We feel all sorts of emotions every day. In greater or lesser measure we react to the world around us by feeling and not just thinking. A delayed bus can easily irritate us; the offer of a cup of coffee by a colleague can raise our happiness levels; disappointment can make us sad. When things change around us, so do our emotions.

As we adapt to new situations, we are more alert, more receptive, more open. Change does not only affect us in the present, but it can also move us in unexpected ways as we imagine the future. A presentation can go incredibly well, opening the door to new opportunities. However, this can lead to fear creeping in as we imagine how these new opportunities also present new challenges and we begin to doubt whether we will be able to rise to the occasion.

If we are happy at work, if using some of the processes has become second nature, if we are happy to stick to our routine confident that things are under control, the smallest of changes can have an unexpected effect. We might feel anger at the change agent for disrupting our life, we might begin to doubt whether we’ll be able to continue operating at our best or we might feel happy at the thought of things changing for the better.

This sudden burst (or slow release) of emotions will have an effect on the atmosphere at work. For a start, different people will feel different emotions and at different times. You might feel happy when a new change is introduced but a colleague might feel nervous while your manager feels threatened. As time passes, you might feel uncomfortable with the way you are adapting, your colleague might have conquered his nerves and feel energised while your manager has become depressed.

This cocktail of feelings makes adapting to change an emotional process and not just a cognitive one. Our brains have to be ready to learn to adapt to the new systems and sometimes our emotions might just make that learning curve a bit steeper. If you are the change agent, or are responsible for implementing change in your team, you must accept that the road will be a rocky one as the complex beings called humans, try to adapt.

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Posted by on July 30, 2012 in change, leadership


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Have You Changed the Way in Which You Spend Your Time?

When we think of ourselves as role-models in an organisation, we think about our behaviour, our ethics, the way we treat others, how we behave in public etc.

But have you considered how you might be role-modelling something as simple as how you spend your time?

How we spend our time can speak volumes about what we consider important. It must be aligned with our aims and with our expectations of others.

If you want your team members to be superb collaborators, you have to lead by example and spend more time with them than at your desk managing by e-mail. (For more on the importance of face-to-face interactions at work, see Want your Team to be productive? Get them talking.)

If you want your people to take their health seriously, you can’t have lunch at your desk every day, holding your mouse in one hand and a sandwhich in the other.

If you are passionate about your team understanding their role in the organisation, you have to spend your time talking to people in other parts of the business.

Stop for a moment.

Consider how you are spending your time.

Then consider your own objectives and the aims of the organisation.

Are you spending most of your time pursuing those aims or are you still pursuing those set three years ago?

Chances are that your organisation has changed in the last three years.

Has the focus shifted from chasing up new business to nurturing current client relationships?

Has your team shrunk considerably and so the communication processes are now overcomplicated and time consuming?

Have you created new roles in your team but you still spend your own time in the same way as before you created them?

We often give our attention to adapting our budget or shaping our strategy as things change around us, but do you seroiusly consider how change in your organisation affects how you need to spend your time?

And do you ever stop to consider what the way in which you spend your time signals to others?

Make sure the way in which you allocate your time suits the organisation NOW and not how it operated three years ago.

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Posted by on June 28, 2012 in change, leadership


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Emotions During Change: The Mega-Mix Reality

There is no question about it: when we have to shift the way we do things, emotions surface.

They might be positive or they might be negative, but they will be there. That’s complicated enough, but we also have to remember that often we will experience more than one emotion at a time.

We might feel excited about the new opportunities ahead of us but at the same time we might be frozen by the possibility of failure. In our head, the future looks bright but in the present,the reality is that we are scared to take that leap forward. The fear of failure freezes our desire to change: after all, if we don’t try, we will never fail.

If you are in charge of a business change initiative, if you are trying to convince someone to try something new or even if you just know that things just can’t stay the same, you cannot influence others without considering the mega-mix of emotions that are likely to arise. All sorts of thoughts, all sorts of questions, all sorts of pictures, all underlined by a range of feelings.

The one thing you must not stop doing is communicating. In an attempt to make sense of what is going around them, people will fill any perceived gaps of information with their own conclusions. The effects on those who are having a hard time is obvious: their imagination can lead to perceive things as if they are much worse than they really are. But you also need to consider that those who are excited by the change, who are directing their energy to giving it a good try, might also be filling the gaps in themselves – something that later on can lead to disappointment. And remember, you won’t only need to implement change, you will also need to continue making sure things work out in the long-term.

So let your people know how often you will communicate with them and through what channel.

Is a half-hour meeting possible once a week?

If an update via e-mail is more practical, how will you make sure that you are answering people’s questions and not just giving them the information that you think they need? How about opening your Inbox to questions a day before your update is due?

Talk to people, listen in the corridors, get a feel for what is happening in the organisation. Acknowledge that it takes time to adapt, that it’s not easy.

You are not just changing systems or outputs: you are asking people to change. And that is complicated.

For more thoughts on Helping Employees Cope With Change, read the article by the same name on the HBR Blog.

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Posted by on June 12, 2012 in change, leadership


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