A Different Approach to Leading Change

I recently attended a webinar on change management.   The speaker delivered some unsurprising content, providing an overview of a couple of different change management models.  They show the various phases people experience as they go through change.  Stick figures in the forest, following a curvy line on a chart, with the vertical axis being “this” and the horizontal axis being “that”.  At the end of the webinar, there were no questions. A blankness landed on our virtual atmosphere and the session ended 10 minutes early. 

Why did this content fall flat?  

The audience for this webinar had experienced wall-to-wall change for the past three years.  Were they just too tired to latch onto the concepts?  Was it simply too late to reach them?  Maybe.  But in my years navigating organizational change, I have begun to see that the problem is more with the models and how we use them than with the person receiving the information.

Here are the three reasons change models aren’t helping you.

Change isn’t linear.

Most change management models often ignore that change doesn’t happen to us in a linear fashion, nice and neat.  We don’t experience one change, move through the designated phases, and then sit with our hands neatly folded in our laps, waiting for the next change to occur.  Life is messy.  At work, we experience several changes at once, at varying stages of the “process”.  Outside of work we are continually going through some sort of change, too.

Change is organic.

Not only do we each have our own set of changes in play at present, we also have our own history of past changes that we’ve been through.  And then we all meet up at work, with those unique blends of change experience.  There is no one-size-fits-all with change.

Change models don’t tell you what to do next.

The stick figure who stands in the initial grief or loss stage of a change management cycle will move on to acceptance and then adoption.  But how, exactly?  Plus, leaders get to try to navigate their own response to change while also trying to help others sort out their responses.  

Let’s face it, that’s a lot to ask of any four-quadrant model, even a really nice one!

So, where to begin??

Focus on these five things to become a powerful leader of change.


Lead Yourself

Leading change, especially in chaotic times like these, can throw you off-kilter.  Take time to get crystal clear on your values as a leader.  This pays off in your relationships because you are more authentic, and also makes time management simpler because you have your values to guide your decisions, not just business priorities that often conflict.

Love Your Team

Under the pressure that rapid and transformational change creates, we can take our team for granted.  Our thanks can start to ring hollow.  And if you are amongst the many who have an employee on the team who constantly complains, draining the energy from the larger group, then you have some work to do around effective conflict management too.  Loving your team means showing appreciation, and also caring enough to give straight feedback and developmental coaching.

Leverage Strong Relationships

Managing up and across can be the trickiest part of change management.  And when we’re stressed, we can lay a lot of blame on others, even knowing that is a road to nowhere.  Leveraging strong relationships is about finding the win-win, having authentic conversations, and having each other’s backs.  

Live in Resilience

In today’s world of constant change, there isn’t always an “opt-out” button.  Recent events have shown us that change isn’t always a choice.  Living in resilience means finding peace, perspective, and opportunity, as well as making time to recharge.  

Level-up Your Career

Sometimes leaders involved in change management can start to be subsumed by it, losing track of how it can benefit their careers and even starting to wonder if they are wasting their time and talent in their job.  Trouble is, if you start considering a career move at this type of moment, it can leave you riddled with doubt and wondering if you’ve failed.  By focusing on conscious career choices, it’s possible to gain clarity on how to leverage change for your long-term success, or whether the time to move on is really now.

How do the 5 L’s help you lead and succeed through change?  Change is so organic and complex, and so the best place to start is within yourself-the common denominator. If your change program is faltering, there’s a good chance you can link it to one of the 5 L’s.  On the other hand, get these elements right, and you have laid a sturdy foundation from which to work with the change model of your choosing.


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Wendy Hultmark, CPC, CLDS, ELI-MP, is an executive coach helping mid to senior-level corporate women lead organizational change and love the process. 

Visit: wendyhultmark.com

Contact: wendy@wendyhultmark.com