Healing the Wounds of Change

Healing the Wounds of Change

“Those who manage change in modern organizations need to learn to dance, to become healers capable of releasing collective energy to heal the wounds of change.”                                                   ~Terrence Deal 

Terrence Deal’s quote above is one of my favorite leadership quotes. Possibly more than any other, the idea of healing the wounds of change portrays the role of modern leadership. Committed change agents typically think of change as a good thing. They have a vision of a better future, and they may have trouble understanding that change is scary for anyone who do not share their vision.

Even minor changes is difficult; major changes can be overwhelming.

I have been in leadership roles where massive change occurs regularly. I probably didn’t understood why people resist it as much as they sometimes do until I saw the frustration and aggravation I experienced when remotes, streaming services, and gaming equipment took over our home entertainment center. Unlike many men in the world, my husband turned over to me the TV remote and dominion of our video equipment.

I found that a seemingly innocent push of a button made volume control inoperable. Sometimes, I had sound but no picture. Switching between Netflix and network television was a nightmare. Turning on the evening news required “phoning a friend” on more than one occasion. Fortunately, now my tech-savvy son lives next door. 

I know it all has to be logical, but it has been a long exasperating struggle to grasp that logic. When I think about the resistance I experienced before I began to feel comfortable with the buttons and knobs, I understand how people working with new work groups, new procedures in their organizations, and new technology can feel.

When I consider the genuine fear people experience when they face loss such as job termination or reduction in hours or benefits, the need to heal the wounds of change becomes even more evident.

I do not have a magic five-point program to heal those wounds. I wish I did. I know too many people in modern groups and organizations are suffering. However, I have thought about what leaders must be and do in the process:

  • Listen– Listen with your heart and let them know you recognize their misgivings. When people are apprehensive, they need someone to listen to their concerns without offering advice or platitudes.
  • Be sensitive to their emotions– Let people talk about how they feel and the possible repercussions of change. Not only will this allow them to feel better, it may suggest ideas for better ways to implement a change.
  • Provide opportunities to share ideas and concerns– It is easy to overlook the part of the quotation above that includes “releasing the collective energy.” It is through discussion and collaboration that workable solutions arise. Encourage that discussion and collaboration.
  • Show confidence in a better future– Look at the emotions and body language you display. Body and emotions need to generate confidence and reveal genuine caring. When appropriate, display lightness and encourage others to play and laugh in spite of underlying issues.
  • Provide necessary training and support– Understand that everyone learns differently, and they may not learn as easily when they have fears or anxiety about a new direction or procedure. One workshop will not address the learning needs of people who are resistant to a perceived threat.
  • Above all, be authentic– Let people around you see who you are as a person. Be present with them. Take time to explain your thought processes when necessary. Recognize your own needs and be willing to go to others (inside or outside of the group or organization) when necessary.

What are your suggestions for healing the wounds of change?

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This topic is covered in much greater detail in my book, Connect: Affective Leadership℠ for Effective Results. 

Photo Credit: Teresa Alexander-Arab via Flickr http://ow.ly/A2DLG


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