Based on my previous blog post, you now know that facing a change will make you move through 3 main phases i.e.:
– Neutral Zone
– New Beginnings
It now makes sense to go deeper in this phasing and talk about other models than the Bridges model as they may help us analysing better the impact on us when we are confronting a personal or professional change.
My analysis is of course a mix of personal and professional experience and also on academic experience.
If you already read my posts, you know that I often talk about the above figure representing the Kubler-Ross curve which depicts quite well the different stages in the change and you can superpose this curve to the Bridges model and so provides a bit more granularity to the analysis.
Mullins (2005) and Buchanan & Huczynski (2004) are explaining that changes are also generating resistance due to frustration, misunderstandings, fear, …
The important point here is to identify the resistance to change and put a strategy to handle it so that we can reach acceptance and new beginnings.
The stages described in the change curve are unavoidable, there is no way you will skip any but you also have to realise that some might be really short and you may also loop back to a previous stage.
About looping back, bad or wrong communication bringing confusion about the potential outcomes or process may damage your journey through the curve. This is to me one of the biggest risk here as people being at different stages, fine-tuning the communication is a must.
Think about being in a chemotherapy which you know is your process to cure your cancer and it does not deliver 100% of the promise… I can tell you that the doctors need to be well trained to manage you going back to one of the first stages i.e. from testing back to denial.
It is tough work to get back on your feet to face the whole thing multiple times and for sure when your body and mental are getting weaker each time.
It is really important to be supported by your own team and professionals.
Just like for the Bridges model, in an organisation, different people can be in different stages even if they started the face the change at the same time. You can see this in hospital if you see a cohort of people facing a lethal disease or a corporate team going through a reorganisation.
Obviously our background, exposure to changes, better knowledge of what is coming in front of us will influence our reactions and our ways to interpreet the information made available.
As you can imagine after 1 cancer and 32 years of corporate work, you kind of read between the lines and move faster and faster through the stages and even if you don’t skip any of them, you increase your efficiency and effectiveness up to the point that you already get prepared for the next one, it becomes like playing chess.
I am pretty sure that this representation of the Resistance Pyramid of Neider and Zimmerman is also easily transposable and comparable to Kubler-Ross and Bridges but with a focus on the resistance.
This helps to better understand that resistance is an opposition to whatever changes the status quo and it does not matter whether you assess the change to be positive or negative.
It is generated by personal perception and sense of control and the evolution will be based on personal ability and willingness.
This view of the change can also be used yo identify how to focus your communication to enable individuals to move swiftly through the curve and get into the new normal with all the necessary equipment to fit.
The communication style is important as mentioned multiple times. Indeed, as we all may be at different stages at the same moment, it is important to adapt your style to the audience.
Not only you have to know what is your own primary style, you need to also know the one of your interlocutor so that you are on the same wavelength and subsequently achieve clearer communication.
When we talk about mass communication, you need to federate hence the importance to find the right balance between these 4 main styles.
This is not magic but also not a science… you have to know and feel your audience to achieve such a balance as it is a main support to go through the change and you leave no one behind.
If you go on 1:1 communication that is the usual way used in both personal change or even corporate change with your direct report or you line manager, there are some tips you could apply:
– don’t fill the gaps, let your interlocutor talk
– listen actively to understand the position in the change curve and also primary communication style
– show empathy, not sympathy i.e. express that you are right to feel like you do
– summarise both facts and feelings this will enable to get better alignment
– think about going deeper to identify the root cause of the feelings
– stay neutral i.e. don’t judge and always keep emphasising the positive
These 1:1 opportunities are there to help going through the different stages and providing the right level of support.
Now from a pragmatic perspective, the best way to make this happen is really to allow the time to engage with people and more than usual to make it clear that we are beyond “normal”.
If possible, try to communicate outside of the usual places you meet. During lock down or for remote workers, try to get more relaxed conversation and maybe even outside hours using social networks and outside of the work environment.
Be yourself to enable easier/better connection and develop the empathy at personal level. Spend time on also verbalising your feelings and also the ones you heard. The purpose being here to avoid your interlocutor to hold back but instead lowering the barriers and increase the sharing.
Set Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic Timely goals and the recognitions to highlights achievements.
As mentioned, get the change at personal level so that the communication and the stages are understood and you also show you can help each individual (always ask how you can help).