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Navigating Change Through, and With, Your People

Updated: Oct 20, 2022

We keep moving forward, opening new doors, doing new things, because we are curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. ~Walt Disney

Change is a natural fabric of life; moving to a new town, switching jobs, buying a new house, or even changing sleep routines and eating habits. Things are changing around us on a moment’s notice, especially over the past several years. Organizations have also felt a magnitude of change - both proactive and reactive. Change is all around us, we can all agree on that.

What we don't all agree on is how much we like change, our rate/pace of change in our lives, and how we deal with changes when they happen. The decisions people make in their lives are directly impacted by how much or little they can tolerate change. When those decisions are taken out of people's hands and changes and decisions are made for them, friction and anxiousness happens in and to people with a low tolerance for change.

I have talked in several other blog posts about the changes in my own journey over the past many years on a personal and professional level. Changing just for sake of changing isn't productive, but changing for the sake of growth, learning, and alignment is both healthy and natural and opens the door for future advancement. The changes I have made over the past several years have been intentional to address aspects of my life that felt out of alignment. Is it always easy? Absolutely not. Am I always ready for the change in my life? No. Do some of the changes in my life have an impact to those around me? Yes, in both good and bad ways sometimes.

Many times lack of alignment is what causes people to make changes. Personally, clients may decide to stop drinking alcohol because it no longer serves the life they want to live, or perhaps they need to get off social media because it was creating competition in their life that wasn't serving them. Both of those changes are deliberate and intentional to align with the life they want to live. The clients identify who they want to be and are intentional about the change they want to implement through daily routines and structure. They feed their mind with positive thoughts and affirmations, and engage with people to hold them accountable. Easy? No! Serving? Yes! Will there be obstacles? Most likely.

On a larger scale, change in organizations happens the same way. Organizations define who they want to be (vision/mission), and determine what it's going to take to get them to that point (strategic action and accountability). The biggest difference is that organizations have hundreds, sometimes thousands, of stakeholders to bring on the journey with them that may or may not have the same vision and mission as the organization does. Bringing people along on the journey of change is one of the hardest and most forgotten parts of managing a project, and effectively navigating the varying appetites for change is equally as hard. Yet, if done effectively can have a significant impact on productivity of team members, engagement, adoption and RESULTS! The focused effort around the people-side of projects is often referred to as Change Management.

Think about a project you have worked on or been a part of where you were adjusting processes for a team. It might be an initiative, culture shift, changing focus on the team, or priorities for the year. Most likely you had people that were excited about the change and saw it as a major milestone for the organization, and others who perhaps were reluctant nay-sayers about the project. Then think about how you engaged the team in bringing the project to fruition. Did you just tell them what was happening and that this was the new process to follow? Or did you help them understand why you were doing it, and show them the impact the project was going to have on their numbers and how it aligned to the overall mission of the company? When did you engage them?

As you think about that project, also think about the questions below:

  • Who is/was the Executive Sponsor on the project? Who was the person sharing the high-level strategy and background of the project? Per Prosci research, projects with active and visible Executive Sponsors are 3X more likely to exceed expectations.

  • How did you engaging mid-level managers to increase their awareness and desire to adopt the project? 43% of most resistance on projects comes from mid-level managers.

  • Did you have a team or person dedicated to focusing on the people-side of change (change management) - what impacts, communication, training, delivery was going to happen for your team members? One of the top contributors of success in companies around project implementation is having dedicated resources, internally or externally, to focus on the people-side of change.

As you navigate the shifting tides of life both personally and professionally, here are some considerations based on varying preferences and appetites for change among people.

Validate feelings: Change isn't always easy. Even positive change can feel challenging at times. Instead of forcing yourself to react a certain way, honor the way you're feeling at each moment. Holding space for our emotions allows us to cultivate the acceptance, compassion and ease we need to navigate the swirls. And remember for that for others as well.

Manage expectations: It's natural to want to adapt to change quickly for some. Adjusting to the change can take time and knowing and acknowledging you are on your own journey through change is important. It's easy to compare or expect too much from yourself or others on a change journey. Knowing and understanding the appetite of pace is very important when navigating change on a team or in an organization, and then communicating as such often brings everyone along. There will be obstacles along the way, they are inevitable. Communicating when that happens helps to bridge that gap and reset expectations appropriately.

Communicate effectively and often, and who delivers the message is important. People want to hear their direct leaders with details about how it impacts their job. They prefer to hear from the Executive Sponsor on strategy and critical milestones. sage is important. People want to hear from their direct leaders with details about how it impacts their job. They prefer to hear from the Executive Sponsor on strategy and critical milestones.

Know and understand everyone journeys differently through change…and their desire for change is different and might take more time. Bringing everyone on the journey early and often is important so they can embrace it and align by the time implementation happens.

Manage yourself through change: Lean into routine - YOUR routine, take care of yourself. If change is hard for you, lean in your own routines for stability and structure. Find ways to weave in parts of your day that are comfortable and consistent for you. Ensure part of your day is focused on things that bring you joy - perhaps a 15-minute walk in nature, a quick meditation or put pen to paper for a few minutes. Lastly, when you are feeling alone through your change journey, the act of sharing your experience with others may lighten your load. Leaders- when you know someone who is resistant to change, empower them to take these steps to help manage themselves through it!

Reflection questions:

  • How effective are you (or your organization) at bringing your people along on the journey with initiatives or changes in your organization?

  • What incremental steps can you take to engage your team during every step of the project or change implementation?

  • How do you personally adjust to change? What are some things you can implement to manage yourself through change?


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