Personal Change Management Is More Important Than OCM
“Organizational change management” is usually listed on job descriptions as a required skill for executives. Don’t get me wrong, it is a critical job skill. Personal change management is just much more important. When you are good at personal change management, you can come across as a “can do” person, instead of a nay sayer. You can help others with the change because you aren’t wrapped up in your own issues with the change. In order to be good at personal change management:
- You must understand the normal human reactions (including yours!) to change and learn how to manage yourself through those reactions while you help your team through them.
- You must be able to recognize when you’re resisting and be able to ‘lead’ yourself through that resistance.
- You must be able to recognize when you have hit your capacity to deal with change and find ways to expand that capacity or eliminate some of the stress that is filling it up.
- You must be able to initiate personal change in your life in order to accomplish your goals through understanding the steps, incentives and processes that it takes to change the habits and mental models that are controlling your behavior.
As a leader, you have to be able to manage yourself through change while you’re helping others. As an executive, you need to be able to initiate and control the personal change it takes to accomplish your personal and career goals.
Personal Change Reactions
People going through changes, good and bad, have some pretty standard reactions. Not every person has all these reactions for all changes, but most people have most of these reactions for most (big) changes. Think about when you found out you got a job or when you lost a job, when you found out you were having a baby, or you had a car accident–you had most of these reactions. Change means you go from the status quo to some new state. That shift requires some mental gymnastics to get you from one to the other.
In order to get good at dealing with personal change, it is critical that you become self-aware enough to recognize the reaction in yourself, and then learn how to move yourself through the change curve to exploration to acceptance to commitment. There are two important things to remember in this process:
- These reactions are completely normal.
- You will get to the acceptance and commitment stages, and it will feel like a ‘new normal.’ It will get better.
Personal Change Resistance
Again, resistance is a normal reaction to change. One of my favorite change management gurus, Peter de Jager
, says people don’t resist change, they resist being
changed. Unfortunately, we experience many of the changes at work as ‘being changed’ rather than choosing to change. We resist change because:
- “I don’t know how” (An ability deficiency)
- “I don’t want to” (A willingness deficiency)
- “I just can’t” (A capacity deficiency)
When you notice resistance in yourself, ask yourself which kind of resistance is it? How can you help yourself get past it? What would it take for you to know to reduce your resistance? Why don’t you want to? How can you persuade yourself to try? What can you change about the circumstances that make it better? What about your capacity to change? Can you do something to increase that?
Capacity to Change
EVERYONE hits a wall from time to time when it comes to change. We all have a capacity to deal with change. Some of us have a naturally high capacity or a naturally low capacity. Then things start to happen. Beginnings and endings–relationships, marriages, babies, jobs, deaths, illnesses, living arrangements, finances. These things ebb and flow. I have four kids and I used to say, as long as no more than two were off the tracks at once I could handle it–if another one had problems, then I had a hard time dealing with it over and above everything else. If you add in big changes at work–new boss, reorganization, downsizing, job loss, then your capacity gets used up. This overflow ebbs and flows too. When you’re aware that your capacity is filled up, then you can reframe the situation, change the way you’re thinking
about it. You have control over managing your capacity. This does NOT mean that you ignore or deny what is happening. It means that you help yourself reframe
what is happening so that you relieve some of the overflow and increase your capacity.
Initiating Personal Change
Organizations need Organizational Change Management because they are initiating strategic change–new processes, new systems, new organization structures–to achieve organizational goals. Executives need to learn to initiate the same kind of personal strategic change and do personal change management through the process. We all try to initiate personal change from time to time (New Year’s Resolutions, anyone?), but statistics say that few of us actually succeed at them. It takes an accompanying personal change management approach to make those changes stick. You must understand what behavior, motivation, incentive, learning, communication and metric changes it will take to make the change stick. Then, treat it as if it were the same as making a change happen with your team. Put the things in place that will incent, motivate, inspire and reward you to make the change.