At time when change is frequently considered the norm, the majority of literature and blogs seem to focus on how to facilitate organizational or personal change. The sheer number of such contributions seems to infer that change is easy — as if there was a method or a mindset that would fully guarantee success regardless of the circumstances.
If we focus exclusively on this more predictable side of change: the approaches and the how-to’s, we might easily forget to address the less predictable side: the human factor and the erratic nature of change. But that risks plunging right into the topic that we would rather avoid: VULNERABILITY.
Common definitions of vulnerability range from “Degree to which people or systems are susceptible to harm, degradation, destruction or being exposed to a hostile agent or factor” (businessdictionary.com) to “Capability of being physically or emotionally wounded or damaged” (Webster).
No wonder, we don’t like it! ---
But whether we are ready to face it or not, change and vulnerability are interrelated and therefore inseparable. So whether you initiate a planned change process or face undesired change, expect to experience moments when you feel uncomfortable, weak, out of control, incompetent or, in short, vulnerable.
Change is a process. It usually takes time, comes in various shapes and forms and sequences itself in distinguishable phases. It evokes different feelings and reactions in each person affected by the change. Change, is not that one stable fix; it is a living system, which in our complex times usually evokes quite a cascade of reactions. It is important to recognize the phases of the change you are going through and even more important to understand yourself and the other people involved during the various crucial stages.
Embracing vulnerability during change
After all the bad news, there is a silver lining. Understanding and expecting yourself and others to be subject to vulnerability during the initiated or experienced change process has a number of advantages:
- It slows you down in a way that helps you develop a deep respect and understanding for the change process you initiated or are going through.
- It helps you to mindfully observe and understand all involved reactions and sentiments.
- It serves as an assessment tool that leads you and others more effectively through the change period.
- It helps you appreciate the strong personal and business leadership skills that are required not only to make the change successful, but also to make it a healthy and positive experience for everyone involved.
Tips that may help you to make sense out of your vulnerability during change processes:
- Make time to balance yourself and to actively think about what you are going through on a regular basis. Ask yourself: What kind of change are you currently experiencing? Was it desired, was it undesired? What is the change process doing to you and others? How is it coming along? Which forces are at play? Your list of questions will grow once you get started.
- Create a “vulnerability map” by writing down the emotions and reactions you are experiencing. Your map could consist of words like “helpless”, “exhausted”, “afraid”. Write down all that spring to mind and spread them over your piece of paper. If only a couple occur for you, stay with it and dig deeper.
- Look at the words you chose for your vulnerability map. How do these words affect your feelings, body and mind? Write these consecutive emotions – emotions that follow when you think of circumstances or your original feelings – next to your original sentiment.
- Revisit your vulnerability map often. Create new ones regularly. See if you can change something in your own thinking, way of communicating, or feeling to help you deal with the feelings and consecutive feelings better.
- Imagine your colleague’s, boss's, friends’ or spouse’s vulnerability map. Try to understand the feelings and thought processes they may be going through while they are connected to you during these times of change.
- Having undergone this introspection, discuss the situation with someone else. If you want to create conversations that really matter, discuss it with someone in the actual change environment. If the environment is not conducive for conversations like this (yet), discuss it with your partner or a good friend. As change leader Peter Senge once said, “Change is not a solitary action.“
- Practice solid personal leadership: Do what is good for you and be gentle with yourself. During times when you may feel that the whole world is against you, it does not help to start acting against yourself too.
These exercises are not meant to replace the deep thought about and appropriate planning of any given change process. To the contrary, they are meant to enhance the change strategy; they lead the change leader or change participant right into the core of where change takes place — within yourself!
Erika Jacobi is the President of LC GLOBAL Consulting Inc. LC GLOBAL® leads people and organizations through important change and innovation processes to pave the way for unique transformation and sustainable growth. For more information visit www.lc-global-us.com or follow us on Youtube at http://bit.ly/1CPbMQ5.