Change has overtaken us. For some time, global and local forces have been signalling a need for transformation. Now, we find ourselves being pushed to and over the brink of change, with no individual or organization remaining untouched. This brink, which appeared so abruptly, is steep and sharp. Most of us have found ourselves thrown quite literally over the edge into the greatest arena for change of our lifetime – so far.
We are witnessing unpredictable and unprecedented change, as trusted businesses collapse, others experience exponential growth and a multitude of emerging new businesses appear. After losing jobs they have held for years, many people are taking the time to determine what is most important to them in starting afresh.
“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us“
• Joseph Campbell
How then to navigate this period of rapid change in which we find ourselves? The challenge now, as always, is knowing when and what to let go, what to develop and build, and how to transition and transform.
As leaders of enterprises large and small, we are tasked with making slow and quick, and long and short strategic business decisions. We must structure our organizations to support these shifts, while ensuring we have the right people to support it all. In essence, we are planning for an emergent future. We ourselves are emerging into the leaders we must become to purposefully co-create an inspired, aligned and grounded vision for the world of tomorrow.
The meaning we as leaders derive from the rapid change happening all around us and within us has a direct impact on how we – or even whether we – react or respond. Take a moment to consider the way that you see change, and the implications that your perspective holds for a future that is always continuing to emerge.
Change Perspectives | Change Reactions
Change is a …
Harbinger of doom | It’s a sign of bad things to come and a threat to our survival. We become hyper-vigilant and start collecting our stuff to protect it.
Form of death | It’s the end, there is no more. We need to start grieving before we can move on – it’s a process and will take time. We wait for the change to be over and everyone to be okay before thinking about what is next.
Problem to solve |We can do this! Time to roll up our sleeves and figure this out. We can get over the hill and get results fast.
Trickster | I never saw that one coming….is this for real? Where did this come from? Why didn’t we see this? We cannot move on until we sort out this confusing change and spend the time and money to figure it out. This change reaction involves hyper-planning, false urgency, starts and stops, and organizational spin starts.
Revealer of Illusions | What I thought worked well – now doesn’t. Did it ever? We were fooling ourselves all along. We notice the cracks in self, teams, organization and projects that have always been there. This reaction brings feelings of regret that we didn’t see what was coming, the false beliefs we created and the time it took us to realize it.
Mirror | How could we see this differently? This is an opportunity to look at the way we do things, how we work together, and identify ways to do so differently or better. What might we as leaders and organizations be like if we take a mirror to ourselves?
“Nothing pleases people more than to go on thinking what they have always thought, and at the same time imagine that they are thinking something new and daring: it combines the advantage of security and the delight of adventure.”
• T.S. Elliot
Do any of these metaphors ring true for you? Have you been aware of your perceptions and perspective about the change you find yourself in?
Perhaps we see change as all of these things, and none, depending on the context of a given situation. Perhaps we see change differently from those around us. Our challenge, as change leaders, is to see where it is that we ourselves must grow and develop – to become leaders capable of co-creating a change climate, mindset and culture that sufficiently supports and challenges our organization within their specific context and centre of meaning-making.
Becoming aware of the stories we tell ourselves about change encourages our individual and organizational resiliency. In actively considering and selecting our perspectives, we create a metaphorical parachute that will aid us in the transition from one reality to the next.
“Be flexible enough to change in the face of novelty and strong enough to face adversity.”
As we crest on the edge in change and our world shifts and pivots, what metaphors for change are at the centre of gravity for you and your organization?
Uncover and explore those metaphors within yourself, your teams and your organization. This helps to better support your upcoming emergent and planned changes that may impact your strategies, structures and people.
WRITTEN BY: Kerry Woodcock, Ph.D., who leads change for a world of change, coaching pioneers and influencers to amplify the power of relationship and lead over the edge of change, and Kimberly Corrigan, who simplifies and demystifies change by supporting leaders to find the right change formula for their business.