People don’t fear change, they fear loss (that might be caused by the change). Five stages of every change initiative –
- Denial – there is no change, any suggestion of a change must be fake news.
- Anger – Denial turns to anger, to steel the subject, emotionally, against some negative outcome. Anger is almost always rooted in fear of something. Fear of loss.
- Negotiation – The realization or awareness of the change begins to set in. Resistance to the change takes the form of bargaining. Negotiation, compromise to stop the changes, or at least mitigate the loss the change may bring.
- Depression – Through negotiation, the emotion of anger turns to depression, resistance is futile, powerlessness sets in.
- Acceptance – As the reality of the change emerges, in all the shifts that take place, acceptance finally replaces depression and forward movement can finally begin.
This sequence was originally coined by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross to describe the emotional cycle of terminally ill patients facing their disease. She adapted the cycle to describe a similar cycle of grief. I call it the heart attack cycle.
First, there is denial you are having a heart attack. Anger replaces denial, what an inconvenient time to have a heart attack. Negotiation sets in, attempting to trade the reality of a heart attack for future church-going, swearing off drink or pasta. Depression sets in as the heart attack drains the power of the individual. Finally, acceptance. Yes, a heart attack is happening. The time it takes to make it through all five stages determines the amount of time it takes to call 911.
And, so it is with management, to assist our teams through change, to cope with the fear of loss. It’s not a heart attack, but we have to move through all five stages before we can move forward.
“Everything seems to change, every day,” Charlotte whispered. She felt the change, but never said the words.
If nothing changed in your company, what would your team members do at work, today?
They would continue to do the same thing they did the day before. And life would be good.
But things do change, and that is why you have a job as a manager. Change is your job security. As long as there is change, you will have a job to do.
As your customers change, specifications change, technologies change, your role as a manager is to modify systems and processes to accommodate those changes.
The more things change, the more your company needs competent managers.
“If you want to change the team, first you have to change yourself,” I responded. “But, there is a price to pay.”
“Oh, I am willing to pay,” replied Ted. “And my company is willing to support me, to pay for training, whatever it takes.”
“Ted, the price you pay has nothing to do with the price of a seminar or a book on management. The price you pay has to do with you. The price you pay is in your commitment, your passion, your focus, your discipline. It is a high price. It is a price not many people are willing to pay. Most will pay for a seminar or a book, but few are willing to pay the real price.”
Ted took a deep breath. It was not a sigh, but an attempt to get some extra oxygen to his brain.
“You are telling me this is not going to be easy,” he finally replied.
“Oh, it’s easy to be a manager, and only slightly more difficult to be a mediocre manager. But, what I am talking about is more than being a good manager, it is a question of being a great manager. What price are you willing to pay?”
Emily nodded. “I think I am ready.” We were talking about her dissatisfaction with the way things were going for her as a manager. Not that they were going badly.
“Sometimes, I think I have to force things,” she said. “And forcing things doesn’t last long. I want to know how I can get people to perform, to perform at a higher level.”
“You want to know how you can cause people to change?”
“Yes, that’s it. Exactly. How can I get people to perform better, to stay focused, to pay attention, heck, just to show up on time would be nice.”
“So, Emily, when you look at yourself, how easy is it for you to make changes about your own life, your own work?”
“I’m not sure what you mean,” she replied. “Things are pretty well with me. For the most part, things are under control.”
“Interesting,” I said. “We think we have the ability to cause change in other people when we have great difficulty seeing the need for change within ourselves.”