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Use the Change Curve to Support Your Team Through Change(s)

Updated: Jul 9, 2021

What changes have you experienced lately? How did you know you were experiencing change? What thoughts and feelings went through your head and how did those impact your behavior around responsibilities and interactions with others?

There isn't a day for any living person or thing that isn't changing in some way all the time. With every passing minute, we get a minute older than we were a minute ago. Of the 80,000 plus thoughts we have every day, many of them are new and although recycled often, we feel differently about what we experience all the time which creates shifts and changes within us.

Apply this concept of subtle, constant personal change to a work environment where it might be easy to assume you know what others are experiencing because you share a connected purpose and are often asked to make organizational changes together. However, it is important to remember we are all on very unique, personal journeys despite the time and experiences we share together. Leaders asking their team members to adopt organizational changes or, who are seeking to implement new ways of working post-pandemic can meet their team members where they are by using the Change Curve to respond in supportive ways to move them forward.

Reference the image above. The Change Curve represents how people deal with and move through change. People react individually to change and not all will experience every change phase. Some people may spend a lot of time in Shock and Denial while others who are more open to change or this particular change, may move fairly swiftly to Experimentation and Acceptance. There is no right or wrong sequence and several people going through the same change at the same time are very likely to travel at their own speed, and will stages at different times and perhaps revert backward if new information around the change causes severe resistance. But resistance should be expected and is a very normal part of experiencing changes - both big and small in all parts of our lives.

If leading a team through change, use the chart below to help you identify where team members are on the change curve and consider the support strategies to meet them where they are to help them move forward.

You will notice that one of the most productive and supportive ways to help people move through change is to listen and acknowledge feelings. During these discussions, keep a couple other things in mind:

  • Resist the urge to problem-solve for them and where they can get answers they need to make an informed choice that aligns with what they are processing.

  • Refrain from projecting where you are or make comparisons with other team members about their level of or progress towards acceptance.

Depending on the severity and impact of the change, a decision to exit the team or organization may be made. Regardless of the outcome, being intentional and aware about your own feelings and the feelings your team has around changes will facilitate progress and forward momentum.

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