Personal reflections on living through change and… reaching ones potential

All change practitioners, and those who have practiced ‘change management’ know the theory about negative and positive change, based on Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s experience of people dealing with grief.  And, as organisational change practitioners, we encourage people to bear these in mind when they are either responsible for introducing significant change, or are trying to cope with it themselves.  But of course there’s nothing like experiencing significant change yourself, to really know what it’s about.

Everyone’s experience of change and how they react to it is different, and very personal. I would not want to be so presumptuous as to try to speak for others, but I can share a couple of my experiences.

A few days ago, I found myself literally shaking as a reaction to a change we are making to the way our daughter is being educated: from conventional school-based learning, to home education.  As parents, we strongly believe it’s the right thing for her, and are very excited about what it’ll mean both to her, and to ourselves, and yet it challenges all my mental frame-works about how people should be educated, as well as being extremely daunting: how will we cope, will we do it right etc.?

And like so many, I’ve experienced change in the workplace: changes in working practices, and both the negative and positive impact of re-organisations and redundancy, resulting ultimately in my new career as an independent consultant.

Readers of this blog will have extensive knowledgeable and experience in many aspects of dealing with change, and how to reach ones potential, and it’d be enriching for us all should you wish to share your insights in response to this blog.  Meanwhile, here are some of my insights that I draw strength from:

  1. We are all programmed for success! I learnt this from Tony Buzan “The Ultimate book of mind maps”: we would not have got this far if we were not programmed to learn from events and adjust the way we do things and so achieve success.  But of course we can’t begin to do this, if we’re not prepared to try or take the risk.  There are powerful visioning techniques such as the very simple question at the start of a training workshop: what will success look, feel, sound, and generally be like? Or we can simply try to articulate our goals for whatever change we are facilitating / experiencing, and then draw up some steps for how we will get there.  Mind maps are powerful ways to do this!
  2. Each one of us has the potential within us to be great! Stephen Covey writes about this in “The 8th Habit”, and I’ve referred to this in some of my other blogs e.g. on adopting a self-employed attitude at work, and finding ‘our voice’.   I’ve both experienced and seen others go through ‘incremental unhappiness’: passive passengers in changing work practices that make us feel less-and-less in control and under-utilises our potential.  We hope that one day things will change for the better, or that there will be a ‘burning platform’ that will push us into a new and better situation. There are some strong reasons why we do just ‘put up with things’ – and an article in today’s (20th Sept 09) Observer illustrates this powerfully: “Workplace stress adds up to a sense of doom for the fearful French”.  It’s penultimate sentence sums things up well: “…French workers need to regain the sense that they are in control of their destiny”.  Of course this applies to all of us, not just the French!

These 2 insights are tremendous motivators to me, both in the changes we are going through at home, and in my new life as an independent consultant.  I hope to be able to share these insights with others as I work with them on enhancing team effectiveness for greater productivity, and improved team morale.  Perhaps, with my help, teams can learn these strategies for coping with change, not just when they are right ‘in the thick of it’, but early on, to be better prepared to either introduce business change, or deal with it themselves.

Do share your thoughts on the above.

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4 thoughts on “Personal reflections on living through change and… reaching ones potential”

  1. In order to be in control, we need choices and awareness of ourselves, our situation, those choices and their implications. This is education. It requires genuine and sustained engagement. Educating your daughter at home should prove a great education for her and for you all. What an adventure! Bon voyage!

  2. My upbringing has helped to provide the foundation for dealing with significant change and adjusting to the climate. For example, shfting to new countries 5 times during my childhood presented challenges and opportunities – settling into new homes and communities, new employment for my father, new school and customs, etc. It would be interesting to observe what difference the childhood experience makes with attitudes and behaviours towards significant changes in later life.

    1. Thank you for sharing this Laura. I agree, from my own much more limited experience of being brought up in Belgium and then going to University in the UK that childhood experiences, especially with positive outcomes, can help with dealing with change.

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