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Embrace Change - Don't Battle It!

By Edward Leigh, MA

I was thinking about my next article - so many great topics, but what should I focus on? My friend Maureen once told me when she is looking for answers, she sends a message to the Universe and sees what comes back. I went outside and looked up at the sky and said, "Send me a message." That evening, my wife, Beth and I were eating take-out Chinese Food. After our delicious meal, we opened our fortune cookies. Inside my cookie, the small slip of paper said, "Embrace change, don't battle it." I received my message – change will be the topic of my next article!

Like most people, I resist change. I have been in the speaking / training industry since 1989. I like to use visuals in my programs. I used many overheads to make my programs more fun and enjoyable. In the 1990s, people started using PowerPoint slides. This new technology seemed very cumbersome to me. My overheads work fine and I am sticking with them! Then in 2002, I was invited to speak at a conference. The meeting planner asked about AV needs. I told her I would need an overhead projector; she said no! She told me it's PowerPoint or nothing! I didn't want to go without visuals, so I knew the time had come. I had to learn PowerPoint. My brother, Hank, is a computer techie; he set me up with a PowerPoint tutorial. It took some time, but I learned the program. Today, I am having lots of fun with PowerPoint slides! Overheads were actually so much extra work compared to PowerPoint slides. I thought to myself, "Maybe change is not a such a bad thing after all?"

Stages of Change

We go though stages in coping with change. It takes time for us to understand the significance of the change. It is important to understand this is a normal process.

In reviewing the stages, you will probably find many similarities with the process a person goes through with the loss of a loved one.

Stage I: Denial

This coping strategy is used to minimize change is happening, or to deny that it will continue or last. At this stage, we may say, "They have said this before. Just wait, it will pass."

In the denial stage, we are trying to avoid dealing with the fear and uncertainty of potential change. We are hoping it will not take place. Early on in my PowerPoint change, I thought, "They are not serious. I am sure overheads will be available."

In helping others, the denial stage is challenging because it is hard to involve people in planning for the future, when they will not accept that the future is going to be altered. One way to help during this stage is to provide concrete information that the change will help.

Stage II: Anger & Resistance

When we can no longer deny that something is or has happened, we tend to move into a state of anger, accompanied by resistance. This stage is the most critical with respect to the success of the change implementation.

In this stage, we may say things like, "Why are they being so hard on us? Why are they putting us through this?" At this point, in regard to my AV needs crisis, I said to myself, "I can't believe they are being so difficult. Why can't I use my overheads?"

In helping others at this stage, listen to people and empathize. Don´t tell them to snap out of it or pull themselves together. Right now, people don't want your solutions, they want their feelings acknowledged. Denying their feelings will only lengthen the period of resistance.

Stage III: Exploration & Acceptance

This is the stage where we begin to stop denying and the anger has passed. We have a better sense of the meaning of the change and are more willing to explore further, and are more open and interested in planning around the change and being participants in the process.

In this stage we may say things like, "Well, I guess we can get through this." I thought to myself, "I will call my brother. He will help make the transition to PowerPoint.

People now need encouragement and support. Provide training and involve them in planning. Focus on some short term successes.

Stage IV: Commitment

This is the stage we commit to the change and are willing to work towards making it succeed. We know it is going to happen and want to make it work.

Recognize and reward people who are responding well to the change.

The change process takes a considerable amount of time and energy to work. Accept that we will go through a process. Focus on the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Look at me – years ago, I was resistant and angry about giving up my beloved overheads. Today I am having so much fun with PowerPoint!

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