Deep Imprints

Your Workplace is your Ministry

How Do You Surf the Waves of Change?

surfing waves of changeAt least part of my childhood was spent listening to the teenagers on our partyline. Today, we video chat, everyone has a cell phone, and my kids develop friendships with people in Europe via Mumble and Minecraft. The world has changed, but it would have been easy to stick with the rotary phone. After all, on the party line, you were never really alone.

There are times when you will find that your organization has become stuck. They have an area where they just stopped growing, dug in, and didn’t change.

How do you help your organization get back up on the surfboard and ride the waves of change?

William Bridges wrote a lot of books on change. In Managing Transitions, he explains the three stages of change:

  1. Knowing what you are letting go of and letting go of it.
  2. The nebula (my words).
  3. Find new direction.

When you have an organization that needs to change, your first step is to help them define their reality. Until they have identified where they are, they won’t be able to begin the process of change. Take time investigating their history. What are the values of the organization? Where did they stop growing? What caused the stoppage? Showing people how their desires don’t meet with their reality is the first step in helping them address the first stage of change.

The nebula feels like a you are in a boat at sea, in a fog without any instruments. It is uncomfortable and it is supposed to be. As a leader, it is your job to be patient and to continue to define reality. When everyone is frustrated with you, and you feel out of whack, it will be tempting to skip this step. However, it is in the nebula that you define who you are without what you lost. In this case, you lost the security of not changing, for the future security of relevance.

As you go through the discomfort of the nebula, a new personality emerges. You become different. As you begin to see your new identity, your new direction will materialize.

How do you keep your congregation together as they learn to let the old go, rock in the nauseating interlude of the nebula, survive being redefined and find their new direction?

  • Define – give them words to define their reality and to explain their discomfort.
  • Reframe – reframing is a marvelous leadership tool that takes perceptions and explains them differently. You can reframe the pain of transition so that you are no longer defining loss, but describing new birth.
  • Refocus – help people enjoy the view from the moving vehicle. When we lost the connectedness of a partyline, we could have felt the isolation. Instead, as we walked through the nebula, from five digit dialing to 10 digit dialing, we soon discovered new adventures – like the freedom of a cellphone, and the joy of seeing family across miles. With each new technology, we had a new learning curve, but the joy of new connectedness helps us keep refocusing on the positive, learning new ways of communicating, and surfing the waves of communication change.

What changes are you trying to make? Can you see the stages of transition? Of Define, Reframe and Refocus, which do you find to be the most difficult?

1 Comment

  1. Trish Hurley

    17/07 at

    Wow, I like what you say about the nebula – I’ve done a lot of that, and it’s always disconcerting and uncomfortable. You are right that it is a period of recondensation, rebirth, and refashioning into something else, something new. The process is never fun, and I do always wish it would hurry and pass, and let me get back in control of my life. My self-esteem always seems under attack (from within – by myself) during these periods – sometimes that’s one of the most painful things about these times. Thank you! You are always intellectually challenging, leading me to think about things in ways I have never thought of before. I like that! Have a great day!

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