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In This Issue
Change Is Not Death
It's Not Just About The Leader
In Your Shoes

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Fall 2010
kate and stacy 2010
Kate Nelson and Stacy Aaron

As we watch the seasons change, we at Change Guides are changing the way we think about.... Change!  In this season's newsletter, we have an article that might surprise some - debunking the "Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance" model of change.  Also, since we often talk about the leader's role during change, we have an article about the importance of the role of the "follower" during change.  It provides a great new perspective on the interpersonal dynamics of change.  If you have not seen our blog, check it out at www.changeguides.wordpress.com


Enjoy the newsletter and, as always, let us know what you think! E-mail Feedback.
All the best,
Kate and Stacy

Change Is Not Death 

Many say that when people experience change, they experience it like they experience a death. But what if what people have said for years about how we experience a death was no longer accepted to be true? The "stages of grief" originally born in Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's book On Death and Dying might actually not be as clear cut as some people believe.


Most consultants and many business people can recite the originally postulated stages... Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. I can't even count the number of people talking about organizational change who have thrown out these stages as a way to get the ball rolling.


Sadly, most of that conversation is misguided. There are questions about the findings of the original research, there are questions about whether "stages" actually exist, and there are certainly questions about whether a change at work is equal to a death.


What we know for sure is that people experience a broad range of emotions when faced with change in their workplace. Some are excited, some are angry, some are sad, some are happy, some are anxious, some are combative, and the list goes on and on. Most of the time, there is really no way of knowing who will react in what way.


So much of how an individual actually feels about a change is based on things that a manager at work is oblivious to. How are things going in the employee's marriage? How is their child doing at school? Did they experience something like this in a former job that went horribly or wonderfully? Have they always wanted to move on to another opportunity that this change might afford them? Did they hope that this might happen so that they could move up/out/around?


You just never know. We have a client that went through a significant downsizing a year ago. They let about 25% of their staff go as part of a massive reorganization. One of the people who managers thought would take the news of losing their job really poorly was the most composed and positive about the entire thing. She was thoughtful, polite, and inquired about potential opportunities in the future with the company. On the other hand, a few people who HR thought would take the new relatively well had to be escorted out by security after threats to their bosses.


When we work with organizations who are implementing change, we know that people in the organization will react emotionally as well as rationally. They do that because they are human. And that is perfectly fine. But those emotions are not neatly packaged into stages that we can watch pass before our eyes. As Forrest Gump would say - it's like a box of chocolates... you never know what you're gonna' get.


While the specific nature of any emotional reaction is a bit of a mystery, there are a few things we do know for sure. We know that people are continually trying to maintain a sense of control, understanding, support and purpose in this world. And when things change, they rush to re-establish those things.


When change at works knocks people off center, we see them trying to regain a sense of control, understanding, support, and purpose. They do this in all kinds of ways. Some talk to their peers and even "make stuff up" about what is happening to fill a void. Some attend meetings that are being held or talk to their boss. Some spread rumors about the change so that they feel like they hold valuable insights. Some tell others it will go away in hopes that maybe it will. Some offer to be a leader of the change. And the list goes on.


They do these things not because they are going through a stage of grief. They do them because they want to have control, understanding, support and purpose.

It's Not Just About The Leader

Are you tired of hearing about leadership? That leaders need to have this or that attribute? That leaders should act this way or that? I've listened to people talk about leadership. I've read about leadership. Reading and talking about it can be pretty boring and dry (ironic, I know that I am writing about it). Leadership gets exciting when you see it. Leadership has meaning when you feel it. I don't think I truly understood leadership until I experienced it, as a follower.


Where would a leader be without his or her followers? A follower plays an important role but doesn't get much credit. So, instead of another article focusing solely on the leader, I want to focus on the motivated and inspired follower, the supporter, the action taker.


Around great leaders, followers tend to step up to the challenge. As followers, we feel an emotional connection to leaders. I've talked to enough people about this, how it feels different when you are in the presence of a true leader. How you somehow want to be your best self. In my career, I've only had one great boss, experienced the actions of one true leader. He was someone I wanted to follow. I felt different about myself around that person. I pushed myself and worked harder. I thought better of myself because of what he saw in me and what he expected of me. That experience didn't drive me to write this article about followers however, another follower did.


This follower was only mentioned once at the very end of an article in the New York Times on August 14, 2010. I read about Mr. McCall, who is 76 years old, and this is what he said that made me want to write about followers:

I'll follow Father Marek wherever he goes. I told him, 'don't stop fast because I'll run into you'


I read the quote above. I re-read it. I ripped it out of the paper. I had only skimmed the article but that one quote spoke volumes about the situation. By Mr. McCall's quote, I could tell that he had experienced leadership. Mr. McCall knows a leader when he sees one. He knows when he is in the presence of one. He feels it.


You can tell a lot about a leader by the actions of his or her followers. Mr. McCall is a follower and with followers like that, I think Father Marek has a good chance of accomplishing whatever vision he's created. From that quote, I know Father Marek is about change. He has inspired people like Mr. McCall to change and change fast. Anyone who can inspire that type of commitment to change is a leader.


All leaders need good followers. Followers understand the leader's vision and can translate it to their work, their level. Followers ask questions. Followers express their support to others. Followers do what is asked and volunteer for more. Followers share their ideas on how to make the vision work. Followers get stuff done.


Followers don't want to let the leader down. They believe in the direction that leader is forging. They run close behind that leader, focused and determined, committed, like Mr. McCall. They count on that leader not to stop. As Mr. McCall so eloquently puts it, if the leader does stop, someone might get hurt! Followers count on the leader to forge ahead, to keep going.


I can't decide who is more impressive Father Marek or Mr. McCall and maybe I don't have to choose. I can't decide who needs whom more. They both play an important role in driving change. More attention needs to be paid to the awesome followers out there. Not everyone can, should be or even wants to be a leader, thank goodness. Obviously, Mr. McCall is inspired by Father Marek but most likely the opposite is happening too. Father Marek is inspired by Mr. McCall's faith in him, by Mr. McCall's commitment to him. I'm sure Father Marek doesn't want to let Mr. McCall down. So starting today, let's look at an expanded scope of what is really happening around us. Let's not just focus on leaders and potential leaders. Let's also focus on the followers. They are just as important to driving change.

In Your Shoes 

Gina PictureGina Giannitelli, Director

Change Guides LLC 

What advice do you have for others trying to drive change?

Three key things come to mind as advice to others trying to drive change.  First, ensure you have a leadership team committed to the common goal so that the success of the project does not rest on the longevity of any one individual leader.  Second, driving change may mean making hard choices.  Having a clear vision, and a clear set of values as a leadership team makes this work much easier and more efficient.  Third, it is important to appeal to both the hearts and the minds of your stakeholders.  Organizations change because the people in them choose to change.  And most of us change not only because of compelling logic, but because of how we feel about things.  We are human beings after all.  Having a vision that inspires, and inspiring leadership who believe in the vision is tremendously helpful.


What one thing has helped you the most in driving change in your organization? 

In retrospect, the courage to be honest has helped a great deal in driving change on projects.  Sharing what you know, when you know, is a leadership practice that I have seen support the success of many change efforts.  By comparison, the omission of information or the spinning of facts can really compromise the success of a project.  Even on an individual level, the failure to be honest with yourself (or the lack of accurate information) can impede you personal change journey.  Talk to the people being impacted by the change.  It is amazing what people will tell you if you just take a moment to connect with genuine intention.  Ask people about their issues and concerns and address them directly.  Don't be afraid of or unprepared for their emotions and fears.  I think it can take tremendous courage to be honest, as leaders and as individuals.  However I have seen candid and honest communications propel levels of trust and respect, thereby increasing stakeholder commitment to change.