Reframing the inevitable
My main symptom is acceptance. Acceptance in the form of many thoughts that distill down to: “Okay, so things are changing, what are my options for dealing with it?” And when I am at my most optimistic, I add: “…and coming out better or happier on the other side?” Since I’m referring to The DREC Model for Change, acceptance is a fantastic symptom.
The diagnosis? I am most definitely in the stage in The Change Cycle known as Experimentation. I’m thinking about where and how I want to live, what new activities I might try, and what I’ll do with all of my “free time.” Whoa now – before you get the wrong idea, I know I have a lot more gray hair these days and this sounds a lot like someone preparing for The Third Phase, the life phase formerly known as “Retirement,” but I’m not there…yet. However, my one and only offspring will be graduating from school this year and heading off to whatever comes next. And so my life shall change in a big way. Am I happy or sad about these changes? Yes!
Have you met with any clients this week who are either on the cusp of an empty nest or ready to fly free from their family-owned business? Or maybe you’re working with someone who is positioning the folks who work in their organization for a big change – a new product, a culture shift, or a new org chart? How will you coach them through it? Or if you’re wearing your advisor hat, what will you recommend they do to adapt?
The Change Cycle
Adapted from Managing Organizational Change by Cynthia D. Scott, Ph.D., M.P.H. and Dennis T. Jaffe, Ph.D., 1989.
The DREC Model for Change helps us understand that there are typically four observable behaviors or stages when humans are faced with change: Denial, Resistance, Experimentation, and Commitment (DREC). The reactions to change differ depending on the impact, severity, sense of personal control and involvement, cultural expectations and environmental factors. A consultant who is aware of the typical reactions or “stages” of change will be better equipped to anticipate these reactions and assist the individual or the organization to work through the process more effectively. And a consultant who can “diagnose” through behavioral observations is a valuable partner in a smooth change process.
How can you tell which stage your client is in? In addition to the article, The DREC Model for Change, you can listen to our webinar, Change, Change, Change to learn both how to recognize where in the various phases your client or client’s organization is and how to help them with moving through the change process.
New Neural Pathways
One of the challenges of change is that we’re truly not yet “wired” for it. Lisë Stewart, GFBAI Founder and Volunteer Board Chair, tells us “part of the challenge is that we may not yet have the neural connections to be able to envision life after the change is implemented.” It can take time for our brains to build neural pathways to comprehend and envision new experiences. She recommends brainstorming as one way to help build those neural connections.
And we can reframe our thinking about change to consider what our “fear of change” is really about. Has a client ever told you she or he was afraid of change? In his writing titled Fear of Change is a Myth, GFBAI Member, Andy Powell posits: “The things we ‘fear’ are the unknown and the transition to the change – not the change itself. If we know this, as leaders, we will be better able to recognize where fear and resistance are coming from and have less ‘fear’ of change ourselves.” In other words, your client is not afraid of the new org chart, but rather is afraid of what it will be like to work in that new structure. (Be sure to check out the diagnostic and assessment tools for leaders, employees, and organizations that Andy has generously shared in our Resource Library.)
Am I afraid of the changes that lie ahead as my birdie flies the nest? No. Do I wish I could prevent this change somehow? Pause. Not really—though there have been a few moments I’ve felt differently. There are a lot of adventures awaiting each of us. And we have lots of terrific memories plus experiences where we probably both felt, “Whew! Thank goodness for change!” (Imagine for a moment what life would be like if difficult circumstances didn’t change.)
Don’t forget to celebrate
Awareness of the change cycle gives us a map for ourselves and to share with our clients. Coupling that awareness with tools to help guide the change process smoothly and in a timely manner help prevent a host of problems. And don’t forget to plan a celebration when you get to that fourth stage, known as Commitment in the DREC model. In our harried culture, we often forget to celebrate our accomplishments. Taking the time to make merry over a shared victory creates important bonds and builds trust, and that creates a stronger foundation for working together on the next change.
Unlike many of the changes we guide our clients through, I’ve been lucky to have had 18 years to think about and prepare for the fledging celebration and the coming empty nest. Celebration plans are still loose but I do have a list of fun ideas ready. And, thanks to an Oprah show that aired long ago and, ironically, while I was home recovering from our birth, I have a ready stock of tissues! Turns out that parents, especially moms, sometimes experience very deep grief in the spaciousness of the empty nest. Will I feel happy or sad about these changes? Yes—both, is my best guess. Change? Bring it on!
(Note: Next month’s webinar, Unsticking Succession Planning, will give you some more tools for working through change. Hope you’ll join us!)