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  • Writer's pictureKaitlin Henze

Big Change = Big Emotions

The pace of change is accelerating in every aspect of our lives. We have experienced massive societal and cultural changes over the past several years including a global pandemic, shift to remote work, introduction of AI, inflation, and significant layoffs. This on top of the unique shifts each of you have experienced in your personal lives is what I believe has caused the increase in anxiety, panic, and other mental health challenges.

To account for this, organizations are stating that "change management" is a top skill or are of focus. Many articles including Gartner's Top 5 People Trends for 2024 and McKinsey's 8 CEO priorities for 2024 mention change capability building as one of the most important development opportunities for all employees regardless of industry or company size. While it is wonderful for organizations to focus on equipping leaders to navigate change within their teams by giving them resources and building upskilling programs, there is a key component that is missing.

Change is really hard for anyone and comes with BIG emotions such as turmoil, anxiety, overwhelm, heartbreak, and grief. I believe that most organizations do not fully acknowledge the emotional aspect of change because this is not something that can be "fixed" through training programs or resources. It requires a different skill set that most businesses do not teach.

When helping organizations successfully implement and sustain changes to their technology, processes, operating model, and culture, I start with the emotional component before introducing the Prosci methodology, bringing in design thinking, or guiding teams through the Kotter 8 accelerators. You can have a robust change strategy, stakeholder analysis, communication plan, and change capacity building programs for your leaders and still struggle to realize the desired outcomes of your change if you ignore the human element.

For those of you facing changes in your personal lives or at your organization, there are three simple and cost neutral activities that can help you tune into the emotional aspect of change.

😟Let yourself (or your team) grieve: Changing anything means that we are giving up something that we are currently attached to, and this is hard even if the new "thing" that is introduced has amazing benefits. Acknowledge that challenging emotions sit at the start of every change curve and allow space and time for people to process through these emotions by offering support and empathy rather than forcing the "What's In It For Me" at the beginning. This means carving out time at the beginning of the change effort to allow for this stage rather than telling stakeholders about the changes at the time of implementation.

😐Remind people that acceptance does not mean agreement. Do not force people to see the benefits and positive things that will come with the change. This has to be a personal choice, and frankly not everyone will buy into the benefits. Rather than push for agreement that the change is beneficial for certain stakeholder groups, focus on helping them accept that the change will occur and prepare them for the future state even if they do not agree that it is the best path forward.

😩Show vulnerability (especially if you are a people leader). Many times, we tell leaders that they must "champion the change" and "lead by example". While these are helpful tactics to help teams move through the change curve, allowing leaders to safely express the true feelings they are experiencing can actually help others let go of the past and become curious about the future state.

These tips require a mindset shift as well as self-awareness and connection. I challenge each of you to make space each day for meditation, taking a walk outside, breathing deep and full breaths, journaling, or any other method that allows you to slow down and be with your feelings and needs. For simple practices to help you and your team increase yourself awareness and attune to your emotions, download the Focus and Prioritize Digital Toolkit.

Take care of yourself through these tumultuous times and reach out to me or others in your community for help!

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