How to navigate through difficult change

By Marianne Renner, Leadership Coach, Speaker, Author

You may be familiar with the five stages of grief, a series of emotions all people experience during loss.

But what you may not know is that people experience similar patterns during times of change.  

When you understand these predictable patterns, you can navigate through change more effectively.

You are able to help your teams and others around you move through periods of difficult transition with more ease so you can return to the business at hand. You can maximize your performance at work and minimize loss of productivity.

Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross developed the familiar five stages of grief in 1969. Eventually, that model was modified into what’s known today as the “Change Curve Model.”

The Change Curve

The Change Curve includes four stages that represent patterns of emotions people experience during change. The model also demonstrates how change impacts energy, performance and motivation in the workplace.

Change can have a short-term negative impact on performance. But if managed properly over time, productivity can return to normal and even increase beyond its original state.

You often think of change as something new coming into your life. What you may not realize, is that change also means the loss of something familiar.

This creates feelings associated with denial, shock and anger. For example, you may become fearful of a change in leadership or organizational structure at work that will impact your role. You may no longer be viewed as an expert in your current position.

Resistance may set in

What’s important to realize is that these feelings are normal. They’re a healthy part of change. The key is to make sure you don’t get stuck. If you can move through phases of resistance, you’ll find that you eventually start to accept the change, and your energy returns.

As a leader, you can help your teams move through the difficult phases by helping them understand the reason for change.

An example of the Change Curve Model

You can use this Change Curve model as a tool to help you and your teams move through change with more energy and motivation.

Start by identifying where you are on the Change Curve during any type of change. Allow yourself to move through the stage without getting stuck at the bottom of the curve.

Look for ways to understand the phases change and solve problems associated with the change. You’ll find motivation and creativity returning.

Keep in mind that these phases, while predictable, are not linear. What’s unknown is how long someone might remain in one phase or when the process of moving through the curve will be complete.

Rest assured that it is possible to return to normal energy levels and gain a new level of commitment to any change.

Download my Grow Your Control Worksheet for more tools to help navigate through change.

Learn more about my leadership training programs.

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