Now What?! Finding Grace in the Space

“I think all art is about control – the encounter between control and the uncontrollable.”
Richard Avedon, (1923 – 2004), giant in the world of photography, fashion and journalism

avedon_Dovina_with_ElephantsLoss of control is an inevitable part of going through change and can affect us inside and outside of work. Being told what to do and when to do it can leave us feeling disrespected and powerless. If we believe our opinions have been ignored and that change is being imposed on us, then emotions can run high. Why?

Humans tend to prefer predictability. Change disrupts that predictability, causing uncertainty and potentially an erosion of trust. A sense that one lacks control and is not supported by his/her environment during times of change can dramatically increase stress.

We can try to maintain control (in the short term) by opposing change, but this strategy does serve you well in the long term. By opposing change, we may be excluded from involvement in the change, which reduces our control over the situation even further.


ACTION: Find Grace in the Space of the Unknown

If you are leading a change impacting others:

  • Understand that the more you get people involved in change, the more they feel in control
  • When communicating about the change, encourage and set up opportunities for dialogue
  • Help others become more certain about the change by being a role model for the change in your actions and words
  • Engage middle managers properly throughout the change. They need your support to navigate the multiple hats they must wear simultaneously – from learning how the change is impacting them to coaching their teams on dealing with the change
  • Ensure proper senior leadership involvement and alignment

If you are part of a team being impacted by a change:

  • Look for the positive consequences of the change. This does not mean that you should ignore the downside of change. It means you have the choice to respond negatively or positively to change, and a positive focus will help you respond more constructively
  • Become as informed as possible about the change and its implications
  • Seek opportunities to get involved in planning and designing the change – or at least in ensuring it is implemented effectively in your area of the organization
  • Identify potential negative consequences of change and plan how you will deal with them
  • Get educated in the new skills and behaviors that will make you successful following the change – developing the right skills puts you back in control

Often, the primary loss experienced during change is the loss of control. Losing control is stressful, so people have a strong desire to maintain control over what’s important to them.

Leaders: understand how people will be impacted by the change and include them in planning and designing the change.

Team members: Gather your courage, and be okay with failing.

Inspirations and references: Chip and Dan Heath’s Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard; Anthony Greenfield’s The 5 Forces of Change: Achieve Successful Change, Naturally; Prosci’s Change Management Learning Center; University of California – Davis’ Managing Through Change – Manager’s Manual.

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Sandra Schwan