Ask Coach Colleen: Being with Change


Ask Coach Colleen: Being with Change

Humans are wired to “wake up” when we experience change. It gets our attention. When we interpret the change as positive, like catching the aroma of freshly baked cookies, it fills us with positive anticipation. When we interpret the change as negative, it fills us with dread. As leaders, how can we grow beyond these natural reactions into a more neutral, mindful place with change? How can we help our teams develop a healthier relationship with change? 


Know where you land on the change continuum 

We all have our comfort zones with change. I’m usually excited to try new things and meet new people, but my husband finds both stressful. You and your team must be honest and self-aware about your own comfort level with the change you’re considering. Here is a way to think about the change spectrum:


  • Enthusiasts: “I must be the first to try this!” You are first in line for the latest iPhone release and are on the waiting list for the soft opening of the new restaurant up the street. You are OK with the fact that the bugs may not have been ironed out; you want to experience it FIRST. 
  • Visionaries: “I tried this, and you should too!” You love to champion change. You may not be the first to eat at the restaurant, but you are writing a review about your experience. 
  • Pragmatists: “I’m curious, but I’ll wait and see.” You are open to change but will wait until the Visionaries prove it’s worth the trouble. 
  • Conservatives: “You need to convince me.” You are willing to change if necessary, but you aren’t actively looking for it. Why go to that new restaurant when you already have a favorite restaurant? Why get the newest phone when your phone still works? 
  • Skeptics: “I don’t trust it.” You tend not to like, or trust, change. My mom is my favorite skeptic. She refused to use an ATM until the late ‘90s because she was sure the computer would make a mistake, eat her bank card, and wipe out her bank account. 


It’s important to realize that we all land in different places on this continuum at different times, and none of them are wrong. They are just perspectives, and every perspective holds important information. When it comes to the latest lipstick that promises it will stay on all day, I am a Visionary. My quest for a lipstick that I don’t have to reapply borders on Quixotic. When it comes to my morning coffee, I’m a Conservative. Don’t mess with my coffee or try to talk to me before I’ve had it. The clearer you and your leadership team can be about where folks land on the change continuum, the more effective your leadership strategy will be. 


What are you saying “Yes” to? 

When we consider a change, it means we are saying “Yes” to something. How does that “Yes” tie into your overall goals and values? Can you and your team clearly see the picture of a better future after saying “Yes” to this change? Can you articulate that vision to the rest of the organization? If so, great! Start those conversations as soon as you can. If not, think about whether this is a change that serves the business or is a change for its own sake. 


What are you saying “No” to? 

A common blind spot in navigating change is ignoring the truth that there is a “No” for every “Yes.” When I say “Yes” to going to the gym in the morning, I say “No” to cuddling with my dogs on the couch for an extra 30 minutes before work. I accept this tradeoff because it aligns with my health goals. Make sure you and your team are clear about both the “Yes” and the “No” of the change. 


Build in time for grief 

Humans are meaning-making creatures. It’s part of what makes us amazing. However, it can also make us behave strangely when it comes to change. We attach meaning to objects and rituals, and when those go away, it can bring grief. Make space for it. A few years ago, my family decided to replace our beat-up kitchen table. As we discussed it over breakfast, my youngest started to cry. “This has been my kitchen table my WHOLE LIFE! We can’t just THROW IT AWAY!!!” Never in a million years would I have expected them to feel such an attachment to the table. Plan on holding space for people’s grief. 


Most importantly, invite everyone to participate in the change process. They may not have a vote, but they do need a voice. The more you can empower your team to be active agents in your change initiative, the more successful it will be. 


Colleen Gallion is an ICF-certified professional coach whose passion is supporting entrepreneurs and founders in building healthy and sustainable teams. For more information, visit

Article contributed by:
Colleen Gallion, Gaillion Coaching
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