Welcome to our series on Reframing Change. In these articles, we’ll reflect on our relationship with change, how we’ve been socialized to resist or embrace change, how change depends on self-trust, and how we can evolve the way we change. We also share how we made change part of our values and working agreements so that we can co-create with safety and trust. And we describe how we partner with clients through difficult changes.
We’re reflecting on a year filled with changes for our team.
In 2023, Leverage to Lead grew by two employees and several contractors. We built a new website and revamped our newsletter. We designed and launched a new certification program. We’ve partnered with clients in several new industries. And we’re reimagining the work of Human-Centered Practices and setting even more ambitious goals for next year.
Change is thrilling and hard, and brings up discomfort and apprehension. Knowing this, we’re leaning on our core values of collaboration and co-creation. We describe their importance on our website this way:
“We hold the value of collaboration as foundational to how we define partnership. Because our differences are not a problem to be solved, collaboration means we grapple together to create a way forward together.
To collaborate as partners and in connection, we commit to perseverance, communication, disrupting urgency, and exhibiting curiosity.
“We value co-creation because it requires equity in relationships, multiple perspectives, and the willingness to imagine without constraints. Co-creating a path forward that does not yet exist, into a future that does not yet exist, asks us to value the process alongside the outcome.
In co-creating the future of equitable work, we commit to high standards, demonstrating trust, risk-taking, shared purpose, imagination, hope, and caring for ourselves.”
In addition to the value and commitments, one of our seven working agreements, which we review before every team meeting, reads, “Co-creation means we are constantly changing, adapting, and evolving.”
Our Relationships with Change
We carry as many stories and emotions about change as we do about money, which can make embracing change difficult, even as we acknowledge that change is necessary and happening whether we like it or not.
For Nick, change has tended to come by making big life decisions quickly. “I love change, but it still leaves me anxious. When we started imagining our Human-Centered Practices Certification Program, I was absolutely certain it was what we needed. But the decision, and the impact on my schedule and capacity, still created anxiety.
Reflecting on her relationship to change, MJ notices an opposite approach to Nick’s. “Even when the decision is right and I’m sure about it, I resist change. I even hate it. But then, when it’s time to figure everything out and get the work done, I come alive and feel confident that we can do it.”
Having moved around a lot as a kid, Kim has grown to love change. “I think change is beautiful. There’s beauty and growth in change. I come from a military family. We moved every few years and I went to four different high schools. Change is how I learn. We’re in it all the time. Change is inevitable. HR is about how we can change well, giving our organization permission to change and then creating supportive processes for the change that will eventually come.”
For Jennifer, change happens with and because of other people. “At times, I have a limit to how much I can be involved in change at Leverage to Lead. Sometimes, I see change happening through my vision and I am ready to make it happen. But I realize that I have this group of expert people around me who want to collaborate. When I don’t have the inner agility to be in those conversations, I get out of the way and prioritize where my voice needs to be. Often that means letting go of the outcome. As a CEO, I’m learning that I don’t need to be involved in every change, and that’s probably better for everybody.”
Once a change seeker, Melody has come to appreciate steadiness at this stage in life. “I used to seek out change more actively–going to school or finding jobs in different states, sometimes as often as every year. But now I love having a home base, a community, and roots. The change I look forward to now takes me out of my comfort zone and then lets me return to the home I’ve built and love.
After some big moves in her life, Dione embraces change. “We moved from Tennessee to California around middle school, and I had my siblings and different people all around me. I’ve worked at small startups and Fortune 500 companies and lived in different states. I still like my routines and I don’t make huge changes too often, but I do create stability in my life that helps me accept change. I like that our team can create and try new things that might not always work the first time, but we adapt and change as we go.”
Change Requires Self-Trust
Our resistance or embrace of change can depend on the circumstance and can be informed by our past experiences. If we’ve been taught to look externally–to other people, rules, or structures–for safety, building the trust in ourselves needed to accept change can be challenging. On the other hand, sometimes self-trust can be isolating, especially if you’re used to relying only on yourself to make decisions and navigate change.
How we approach change is also how we accept failure. We can take big risks if we trust ourselves to move forward if things don’t go as planned. If you can believe that you’ll be okay no matter the outcome, change can feel exciting and motivating.
Our stories about change are still being written. They begin with how we experienced change when we were young. What kinds of changes happened to us? Who helped us navigate and adapt? How were we able to express our feelings about change? Who was responsible for changes and outcomes?
Since we’ve taken on agency to make our own decisions, we can reflect on how we feel about and respond to change. How does change make us feel? How do we avoid or embrace change? How do we trust ourselves to withstand change? How do we take responsibility for change?
And now, as we think about how we’re currently showing up with others, we can reflect on what we want and need. How do we assess what needs to change? How do we take responsibility for making necessary changes? How do we co-create and collaborate with others when change is a shared responsibility? How do we care for ourselves amidst change?
Carrying all that we do about change and trust, it’s easy to see the impact our experiences and beliefs will have on our work and our colleagues. In our next article, we’ll dig into how our narratives about change influence our behaviors.