Great leadership is essential in change management since leaders emulate qualities that employees follow while simultaneously motivating and supporting them through the change. However, while leaders are known for taking others’ emotions and experiences into account, change also affects them. Change leaders must also deal with organizational change. Thus, the importance of leading self through change cannot be denied and is essential for leaders to then lead others.
Personal Transitions and How They Affect People
While gradual changes don’t cause challenges, the same cannot be said for sudden and large changes which challenge people’s “assumptive world.” Whether these changes are seen positively or negatively, they change individuals’ perceptions of the world they know and may thus be difficult to adapt to. This may lead to resistance. Yet, this isn’t resistance pertaining to the change, but more a loss of familiarity when moving into unchartered territory.
The Stages of Transition
Adjusting to organizational change isn’t easy. That’s why the importance of leading self through change cannot be emphasized enough. This type of personal transition can be expressed as a model of change consisting of three stages – the ending, the neutral zone, and a new beginning. It’s important to note that these stages aren’t sequential but overlap, with individuals moving from one stage to the next or the previous one, and even being in multiple stages at the same time.
When organizations face change, they begin with the ending of one phase. The importance of leading self through change becomes evident when one notes that new roles cannot be fully filled until the old role is let go. Since individuals crave balance and this upsets the status quo, resistance is expected and natural since people are reluctant to change.
Lead yourself through this change stage by understanding that change has taken place, gathering information to understand the new change, and weigh the advantages and disadvantages associated with it. By looking at both gains and losses, you can lead yourself through change by accepting the end of what has become familiar.
The neutral zone is the stage between the ending and the new beginning, consisting of uncertainty, confusion, and instability. However, it’s also a time when individuals can embrace growth, identify new opportunities, and explore creativity. While some people are uncomfortable with uncertainty and try to exit this stage prematurely, others take their time and select better opportunities. Get through this
stage by accepting that uncertainty is a given at this time and moving through this confusing time by setting short-term goals.
Once individuals pass through the neutral zone, they can embrace a new beginning and develop a new identity. This is when individuals find balance, settle into their roles, and internalize their new identities. When settling into the new role, ensure you take advantage of the opportunities presented, tackle new problems, and develop strategies to overcome challenges.
Preparing for and Leading Yourself Through Change
Resistance is one of the main reasons why change initiatives fail. This highlights the importance of leading self through change by limiting and overcoming such resistance in yourself. Leading self through change can be divided into three stages, i.e., understanding, adapting, and managing change.
Understanding change refers to understanding one’s role in the change initiative, including how it impacts them directly, and those they work with closely. It’s through this evaluation that you can address your resistance through different strategies.
Adapting to Change
Before adapting to change, you must embrace it. Managers should ensure they accept these changes so employees can follow their lead. In addition to supporting the change, one should take an active role in adapting to it.
Not everyone is ready to deal with change. In order to manage change effectively, one must develop competencies and improve their skills to deal with the tasks ahead.
Psychological Reaction to Change
One of the many reasons for the importance of leading self through change is the time taken to fully accept the change. Adjustments require time and leading yourself through change includes understanding that experiencing discomfort and resistance is normal and that the change cycle has an end. All individuals go through the psychological reactions involved in change, whether the change is voluntary or forced. These include the following stages.
Awareness and Shock
When one first becomes aware of change, they may be shocked or overwhelmed. Because of their anxiety regarding change, they may freeze and cease to come up with constructive solutions and plans.
Because of the overwhelming nature of anxiety, individuals refuse to let go of the past and the familiarity they have come to expect.
Once individuals realize that change is necessary and they cannot stop it, they feel as if they don’t have control and may become depressed, confused, or angry.
In this stage, the individuals accept that there’s a need for change.
As change implementation begins and individuals encounter new situations, they test their abilities, which may be successful or result in failure.
The testing stage allows individuals to learn how to act in their new environment.
Learning and Internalization
Once they have learned how to implement change and accept the change initiative, individuals complete the transition and internalize the change.
Summary and Conclusion
Change initiatives and organizational change as a whole affect everyone, from employees to managers. While resistance is natural in response to a change in the status quo, this must be minimized in order to ensure successful change implementation. It’s by understanding the different stages of change, the psychological reactions associated with it, and ways to lead self through change that individuals can overcome resistance and acclimate to their new environments.