How to handle change

Life Lessons

How to handle change

There’s no denying it: Change is hard. Whether it’s personal or professional, a change you wanted or one you didn’t ask for. It’s important to find an effective way to manage change, because we’ll use that tool/process/system on a regular basis.

It’s also why organizations look for individuals who can manage change well. The world of business today is constantly changing. As such, organizations want to hire and retain employees who can manage change. Learning how to manage change benefits us personally and helps with our career growth.

3 phases in the change process

This three-step change model was developed by Kurt Lewin, a psychologist known as an early pioneer in the areas of organizational psychology. What’s nice about Lewin’s model is it’s easy to remember. Managing change is hard enough without adding a complex model to deal with it. Lewin’s model has just three phases:

1. Unfreeze involves recognizing the need for change and getting ready for it. There are two primary types of change: forced and choice. A forced change is one we don’t really have any control over. Examples of a forced change might be finding out our job is being eliminated or a major procedure change in the way we do our work. A choice change is one we initiate, such as accepting a big promotion or agreeing to relocate for a new opportunity.

Whether the change is our choice or someone else’s, we still have to acknowledge we’re going to have to deal with change. Depending on the situation, this might involve grieving, anger and a myriad of other emotions. The important part is to allow time for processing the situation, seek counseling if necessary, and come to terms with the change ahead.

2. Change itself is the second step in the process, when we actually make the change or transition. While this might sound very simple, the reality is it’s not. It’s important to understand we could make mistakes along the way. We undoubtedly will get frustrated. During the change phase, we can manage the process by creating small milestones. Breaking a big change into smaller pieces can help prevent things from becoming overwhelming, especially if part of the change involves learning new things.

Another thing to consider during the change phase is we don’t have to do it alone. We can seek the guidance and the experience of others. This could be a mentor who’s gone through a similar change or a personal board of advisors who can lend support and offer ideas.

3. Refreeze is the final stage in the change process. This is the time where we’re seeking stability after making the change. Think of it as establishing the new normal. We spend less time thinking about the old way of doing things and more on the new. In fact, we might even start thinking about ways to improve upon the change we just made (hence, creating more change).

A critical component in this phase is celebration. Acknowledge the change process was hard and congratulate yourself on managing the change. You deserve it. It could also be helpful to take a few moments to think about what went well during the change and what you might do differently next time. You could journal your thoughts for future reference. This provides you with a proven strategy you can use the next time you’re faced with a change (which we know is going to happen at some point).

Change happens
Greek philosopher Heraclitus said the only constant in life is change. In today’s technology- driven society, it’s certainly true. While we can’t control change itself, we can learn how to manage it well. Having models, building networks and practicing self-awareness can help us successfully maneuver through change.

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