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Are You (& Your Organization) Ready For Change?




Have you ever experienced an organizational change initiative that began with excitement to only fizzle out a few months or years later?


Maybe it was a new communication strategy that leadership and HR spent months on, but the majority never adopted, and eventually everyone just reverted to their old ways of doing things.


Or maybe you heard about a change initiative through the grapevine, but leadership hasn't communicated effectively so you don't know the game plan and haven’t really heard anything lately.


Maybe you’ve tried improving a personal skills like stress management techniques, active listening, or effective communication, but after some time your focus lessens and your old behaviors creep back in.


It begs the question…


do we want to change?... and if we do...are we ready?

In this post, we’ll review the beginnings of the change process and narrow in on the first steps to start making an impactful, positive difference today.



Welcome to the Lead with Lindsay blog, a leadership development site (and podcast) for those outside the c-suite as individual contributors, first line and middle managers responsible for personal and professional change.


My name is Lindsay Friedman, a Leadership Development Coach, and Learning & Development Facilitator for organizational teams who manage and development talent.




My coaching philosophy concentrates on employee’s well-being as a primary driver for organizational welfare and so that’s where we’ll begin today.


We’ll also broadly review the change process before focusing on the first steps of waking up to the differences between where we are and where we want to be.




INDIVIDUAL & ORGANIZATIONAL WELLBEING



The Oxford dictionary defines well-being as...

WELL-BEING: A state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy.

The “or” is kind of annoying... like... can’t we just have all 3.




We may be more familiar with assessing personal well-being, which includes the PEMS Assessment:

  • Physical

  • Emotional

  • Mental

  • Spiritual

It provides a quick acronym to scan your current situation and helps highlight areas in need of your focused attention and nourishment.


This is something I use at the beginning of coaching sessions to understand and meet clients where they’re at. I use it for myself in the morning, or when I’m feeling restless or tired. Either way, the purpose is awareness. As is most of the work we do around here. Once we’re more aware of where the challenge is, we move closer to developing a plan to address it.


Organizational well-being is similar but with additional financial and business benchmarks. One could also make a case that financial health is important for personal well-being as well, but moving on.




Broadly speaking, while an organization’s well-being is dependent on each contributor’s comfortability, health, and happiness, it’s also largely influenced by the ability to profitably achieve its purpose or vision.


By examining the current health of the organization, we paint a picture of what the reality is: 1) what’s going well and 2) what’s not.


Before we get in the car and start driving, let’s input our current location. This starting point is the first step of a personal development or an organizational change or learning journey.


OVERVIEW OF CHANGE PROCESS


As you can imagine there are multiple models for change. I’m not going to break them all down here but I want to highlight that they all begin with an assessment of the current state.


Kurt Lewin’s “Stage Theory of Change” begins with uncovering the need to unfreeze beliefs and assumptions. See this mental models worksheet to help do this on a personal level.


Mary Gentile’s “Giving Voices to Values” model starts with clarifying and articulating your values and understanding the larger impact of acting on them. If you’re interested in this approach, see the following personal values exercises:


Jeanie Daniel Duck’s “Five-State Change Curve” begins with change leaders pushing people to wake up from their stagnation. And if you’re intrigued about this, take my free 15-min communication awareness training to help prepare you for these conversations


Now, what do they all have in common? …


They all expand our awareness of the current situation; why change is needed and what are the forces for and against the change.


To speak broadly, the first step is an awakening which is un-coincidentally the first step in the Deszca and Ingols “Change Path Model.”


Whether we’re examining personal or organizational well-being, it’s by surveying the current land through gathering data, having conversations and spending time in reflection that we begin the change process.


“You can’t really know where you are going until you know where you have been.” -Maya Angelou

For individuals we do this through personality assessments, 360 interviews and the first sessions of the engagement.


For organizations, and their teams, this could mean culture assessments, interviews with leaders & stakeholders or data from employee experience surveys.


This awareness, coupled with a well-defined future vision, illuminates what needs to change.


In either situation, this process is called a “gap analysis” and it’s essential to long lasting, positive, and impactful change and talent management. Think of it in terms of driving somewhere new or taking a trip to a city you’ve never been before. Sure, you could wing it with a vague idea of your destination and what you want to do once you get there. But ultimately, without intentional planning, you’re going to miss out on a lot, and probably take a few wrong turns on your way there. Even GPS and the best consultants need a clear starting point to map a path forward.


This discovery includes asking ourselves and our colleagues some tough questions. Take a minute to think about a personal, professional, or organizational challenge that you are or want to be working on.


As you read these questions, answer them to yourself or use this worksheet as journal prompts at another time:


  • What do you want? or What would you like?

  • What will having that do for you? and What’s important about that?

  • Where, when, and with whom do you want it?”

  • How will we know when you have it? What will you or others see looking from the outside? What will we notice you doing that’s different than what you are doing now?

  • What stops you or slows you down from having that?

  • Who else might be affected if you follow through?


READINESS TO CHANGE – ARE YOU COACHABLE?


It’s through this conscious reflection that we begin answer the main questions:

Are we (and our organization) ready and willing to change? Are we coachable?

Change and Talent Management coaches, consultants and leaders may use a readiness questionnaire during this initial phase of awakening to answer these big, necessary questions.


Just like with change management models, there are numerous thought leaders and researchers who’ve contributed to the tools and assessments we use for this process. I’ll highlight a couple now.


William Judge, an authority on Organizational Change, highlights eight dimensions of Organizational Capacity for Change:


  1. Trustworthy Leaders – has the leadership team earned the trust of the employee base?

  2. Trusting Followers – Is the employee base allowed to constructively dissent, and/or are they willing to follow a new path?

  3. Capable Champions – Are there leaders willing to authentically champion initiatives?

  4. Involved Middle Management – Are these leaders able to connect senior leaders to the rest of the organization?

  5. Innovative Culture – Does this organization encourage originality of thought? And take steps to put it into action?

  6. Accountable Culture – Does this organization do what it says it’s going to do?

  7. Effective Communications – Does this organization communicate effectively in all directions?

  8. Systems Thinking – Is the organization able to identify root causes and recognize cross-functionalities, interconnectedness, and interdependencies within and outside the organization?


As we assess an organization’s readiness to change, questionnaires may look something like this:

  • What’s the mood of the organization: negative and cynical or upbeat and positive?

  • Is there a clear picture of the future?

  • Are senior leaders trusted?

  • Is conflict dealt with openly and focused on resolution?

  • Does the organization have communication channels that work in effectively in all directions?

  • Does the organization attend to data it collects? (i.e., How are those employee experience surveys comin’ along? Have you heard anything since you filled it out?)




PERSONAL LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT


This is obviously just a snippet of what a longer assessment process would entail but it brings up, what I consider the essentials of effective leadership:

  • trust & relationship building

  • effective communication

  • concrete values and emotional intelligence

  • conflict & stress management.


Since we dove into organizational change, I think this fair to turn the spotlight inward, towards personal development.


Once we determine where we are, where we’re going and what’s stopping us from getting there a few main personal challenges arise. And what do you know, they usually fall somewhere within the 4 essentials of leadership I just mentioned.

  • If you don’t trust your manager, then good luck getting anything of good quality done

  • If prioritization and intention are getting lost in your messaging, then you’re not communicating effectively (and it’s not on solely the listener to fix that)

  • Are people scared to voice concerns?

  • Are people unable to consider multiple perspectives without it causing a scene?

  • Does conflict escalate or suppressed instead of being dealt with?


You see what I’m saying? Like…I’m sorry but who the fuck cares about your new tech product if you can’t hold a meeting without screaming at, blindsiding, or ignoring someone? Ya know?




Within a coaching engagement, we address these essentials and develop plans to improve them. This alone is a change management task. These are the building blocks to larger business-focused change. We’re constructing the necessary foundation for long lasting and effective transformation.


To tie this whole conversation together, we’ll end with one of my favorite activities for envisioning a future state and that is a mental rehearsal. Let’s go....



MENTAL REHEARSAL


In 2018 Stanford released groundbreaking research showing how thinking about our performance influences how we actually execute. Mental rehearsals have been used by sports psychologists to increase the performance of their athlete client.


In the early 2000s my high school softball coach gave this as homework most nights before games. I didn’t know what it was called at the time, but he would ask us to play out the game in our minds. Each at bat, swing, and field play. What our actions would be within each scenario.




Now, this is more of a mental practice. What would make this a mental rehearsal is incorporating detailed imagery.

  • Is it sunny or rainy during the game?

  • What’s the temperature like?

  • How does my uniform feel against my skin?

  • Who else is there?

  • What does the fan base look like?

  • Is it packed with screaming fans?


These imagery details, if done correctly and aligned with what is to actually occur, helps increase the positive impact by desensitizing ourselves to varying stimuli.


If I know there will be a lot of screaming fans and hot sunny weather, I can process that information now and make necessary decisions to increase my comfortability, leaving space for more mental acuity during the actual game.


Let’s use an organizational context. Say you’ve done a personal value assessment and realize that you are at odds with your organization over the way they handle DEIJ (Diversity, Education, Inclusion and Justice.) This is obviously a serious conversation, and when you bring it up, it will most likely elicit feelings within you and within whomever you’re speaking to.




Mentally rehearsing the conversation by envisioning the room, smell, body and somatic reactions, etc can help you perform your best in real time.


So, to end this post I'll walk you through a mental rehearsal exercise. If you’re not in a place to sit peacefully with your eyes closed, you can just listen (audio below) and reflect.


If you can treat this like a meditation, I encourage you to find a relaxing seat or lie down. Close your eyes and make sure that you’re comfortable with the temperature. Grab a blanket or remove some layers to ensure you’re comfy.


Take a few mins to think about a change you want to create. Within yourself or at your organization.


If you’re struggling to think of something, pick a personality trait you wish you didn’t have and envision what you’d strive to embody instead.


For me, that’s replacing interrupting with active listening.


For this exercise you are stepping into that version of you that is 100% committed to that goal because…why? What’s the reasoning behind this commitment. Think of what’s at stake or what you could positively experience from that change.


To use my active listening goal as an example…my why is a deeper understanding and connection with those I’m in conversation with. This will expand my reality, build relationships, and live a more aligned and authentic life.


If you haven’t settled in yet, this would be a good time to do so. Take some slow deep breaths; get some wiggles out. May even tense or contract your body up really tightly for a few seconds…then let it all go.


Enjoy...


RESOURCES

  • Deszca, G., Ingols, C., & Cawsey, T. F. (2020). Organizational change: An action-oriented toolkit (4th ed.). Sage.

  • Stanford University. (2018, May 18). Mental rehearsal might prepare our minds for action. Stanford News. Retrieved March 15, 2023, from https://news.stanford.edu/2018/02/15/mental-rehearsal-might-prepare-minds-action/




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