7 Emotions of Change

Voodoo Macumba Smileys Emotions Icons

Every change costs someone something.

One of those costs, which is often underestimated by those leading change, is the emotional response to change. All change has an emotional response.

Realizing and recognizing the emotions of change can help you better lead through the change. Acknowledging someone’s emotions goes a long way towards helping them accept it. Change is hard either way, but if you ignore the emotions you’ll find yourself always battling to make change successful.

Here are 7 common emotions to change:

Fear. Change can be very scary because it takes you into something unknown.

Grief. There’s a sense of loss associated with change. Something was left behind. People may have loved the way things were. Even if they know the change was needed people may grieve what they left behind.

Enthusiasm. This is a good emotion. Most of the time. And, for some people. There are times, however, that one groups enthusiasm further frustrates another person’s pain.

Anger. People can get mad about change. They can even “lose their religion”. Change can cause people to react in very ungodly ways. They may say or do things that are mostly out of character for them. (Although, sometimes change allows us to see someone’s true character.)

Confusion. Change takes people somewhere new and, therefore, can often leave people feeling very confused until they figure out and adjust to what the new reality will be after the change. There can even be an appearance of acceptance simply because a person doesn’t yet understand how they will be affected.

Loneliness. Change takes something away from people. It may have been what made them comfortable. They may feel an emptiness as a result of the loss.

Sadness. There can be a profound sadness to change. For example, I think of my wife when we have changed church assignments. She can know we are following God’s will but she is sad at the separation of relationships she values.

Numbness. Sometimes change can leave people with their heads spinning — especially when change is fast. People don’t even know what to feel — which means they don’t know how to respond. (You won’t know their true emotion to change until after the period of numbness.)

Next time you’re in the midst of change — which if you’re in leadership should be often — watch for — and find ways to acknowledge — the emotions of change. Don’t limit these emotions to leadership. They are true in all relationships — in marriage — parenting — life. Where change is occurring, emotions are sure to be found.

In a future post, I’ll share some thoughts on how to address each of these emotions.

What other emotions of change have you observed?

7 Qualities of Good Change Agent Leaders

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If you want to be in leadership get comfortable with change. It’s part of the experience of every leader. The best leaders get accustomed to leading change.

Every leader deals with change, but in my experience, some handle it better than others. There are change agent leaders who seem to have an innate gifting at leading through change. I love to learn from these special leaders.

I’ve observed some common characteristics change agent leaders share.

Here are 7 qualities of good change agents:

Flexible – It doesn’t have to be their design. They simply want progress towards the overall vision. These change agents are never stubborn on matters that seem to have no vision-altering value. They navigate towards a solution, letting others have “their” way. Everyone walks away feeling as though they have won.

Courageous – Change agent leaders are willing to receive criticism and still move forward. They know how to filter through what is valid criticism — worth hearing — and what’s simply a venting of personal interest. They unwaveringly push through the junk that clouds progress.

Relational – Good change agent leaders value the opinions of other people and work hard to gain trust. They know that ultimate change can’t happen without human capital and they are constantly investing in relationships. Networking is one of a change agents greatest tools.

Strategic – A change agent leader realizes there are steps to take and they carefully choose the timing of when to take them. They almost have a keen sense of discernment when it comes to knowing when to pull the trigger, when to wait, and when to pull the plug completely.

Creative – Good change agents are able to see paths to success others can’t yet see. I need to be honest here and say that I’d rather be strategic than creative. There are some who can always find a way to make their ideas work, but it comes at the expense of others. But, change happens with creativity. Effective change is one of the best forms of art in the field of leadership. That takes creativity.

Intentional – Change agent leaders make change for a specific purpose. They never waste a change. They know that every change has the potential to make or break a team and they work diligently to bring the best results.

Thorough – A good change agent follows through on commitments made and sees the change to fruition. They don’t give up until the post evaluation is complete and the lessons of change have been learned.

Think about your experience. Who are some of the best change agent leaders you have known?

One Way to See a Successful Change

Chalkboard with text Changes

Here is one key to successful change. 

Try replacing one something with one something else.

The problem with change is that people fear losing something they’ve grown to value…something they’ve grown comfortable with in their life…something they love. 

One key to successful change is to replace the thing your changing with something they’ll love even more.

You can’t do it everytime. Sometimes you just have to let things go. And, even with this change is never easy. But, when possible, give them something better rather than nothing at all. You’ll help them better embrace the change long-term and help build a culture more conducive to change.

Try it. 

5 Stages of Organizational Development

Growth Blue Marker

Every organization goes through life cycles. This includes the church. These cycles can be natural or forced, but part of leadership is recognizing them and adapting leadership to them for continued health and growth. Each stage has overlap, but understanding this can help a leader decide how best to lead…which is different in each cycle.

Here are 5 life cycles of any organization:

Birth – This founding period usually involves a few people with a big vision. This is the initial stage where a lot of learning takes place and the organization begins to develop leaders…sometimes by trial and error. Everyone on the team at this point has the potential to become a leader in some area. Having planted a couple churches, we launched one with one staff member (me), my wife, and twenty or so people. The other was with three staff members, our wives, and eleven couples. Each member of both teams were forced to lead areas outside their comfort level, but we gained some of our best leaders that way and several people found a passion they did not know they had. In both church plants, which grew quickly, this stage lasted less than one year.

Childhood – A deepening and maturity process begins at this stage, but the organization still has few policies and procedures in place and everything is still “fun”, with the excitement of still being a young vision. New leadership develops and responsibilities spread to new people within the organization. Mistakes are common as the organization figures out its identity. The DNA of the organization begins to form. The organization begins to recognize its need for more structure. This was a fun stage and time for both church plants. The normal for this stage appears to end in three to five years. (For larger organizations, I assume this could be a longer time frame.)

Adolescence – Greater levels of responsibility are handed out to more people and the weight of responsibility spreads within the organization. The organization has had some success at this point and so it begins to take new risks and dream new and bigger dreams. This is a continued growth time and usually full of renewed energy. If the organization is not careful some of the initial leaders of the organization can begin to experience burnout; and often a loss of power as new leaders emerge. More developed structure becomes necessary at this point and the organization must begin to think about maintaining growth. Organizations are forced to “grow up” during this stage. It usually happens in the first ten years, but again, this may depend on the size of the organization.

Maturity – At this stage the organization has many experiences of success and some failure and must begin to think through continued growth and health as an organization. The organization needs constant renewal and regeneration to remain current and viable. Leadership has been developed, but the organization begins to plan out succession of leaders. The structure of the organization is usually well established by this point, but must remain flexible enough to adapt to changes outside the organization. At some point all organizations enter this phase. All. The goal at this point needs to shift into breathing new life into the organization. (A lot of churches reach this stage and cease to change and grow, often steeped in their own traditions, and this is where plateau begins. Know any who fit this category?)

Renewal – This stage almost always has to be forced on an organization. Sad, isn’t it? Either by leadership or for survival purposes, something new must occur or the organization will eventually die or cease to be viable. I am in this stage with a church now. This can be scary for people, but it does not mean the organization must leave its vision, traditions, or culture, but it must consider new ways of realizing its potential. Some will say renewal comes at each stage of the organization’s life cycle and that may be true, but I contend there is a definite stage in a healthy life cycle where an organization improves and almost reinvents itself to continue to experience health and growth.

Another thing to remember is that the speed of an organization’s growth (or the church’s growth) can cause life cycles to complete much quicker. Consider the child who has to face adult decisions early in life and is forced to “grow up fast”. A similar thing happens to organizations.

(These are not my terms. I learned them years ago in a management class. The explanation and application is mine. I realize this is written with secular leadership terms. I have a long background in the business community, but I believe the principles here are directly transferable to the church setting.)

7 Suggestions for Navigating Change When Standing in Muddy Water

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Have you ever navigated change through muddy water?

Have you ever had to lead change when no one knew for sure what change was needed? Or when there wasn’t clear agreement on where the organization needs to go? Or when some players on the team were uncommitted or complacent? Or when the leadership pipeline…who is supposed to be leading…wasn’t clearly defined? Or when the season of decline has been so long no one remembers what success looks like? Or when…you get the idea.

It’s like navigating through muddy water. Ever been there?

Continuing with the muddy water metaphor, what do you do during those times?

Here are 7 suggestions when you are leading change through muddy water:

Analyze the water – How muddy is it? You need to know the work you have before you. How desorate is it? You’ll get very discouraged if you try to lead through semi-cloudy water and find out it really wasn’t muddy at all, but in fact, you were standing in quicksand. This process can take a day, a week or a year depending on the depth of the water and how long it’s been muddy. Give it time. Learn the issues. Learn the players. Hire a professional water analyzer for perspective if needed. But, know your mud first.

Be honest – “The change is going to impact you and it’s going to be hard.” How is that for transparency? It may sound too forward, but people know something new has to happen. They may not yet be able to admit it. They may not want change. They may even resist it, but they know change has to occur. Go ahead and admit the obvious. You can and should encourage people that things will improve, but they already know there is a problem. The water is muddy. They can see that. Maybe even taste it in their lemonade. Admit it. People will trust you more when you are honest.

Cast a clear vision – Where are you going? How clear must the water be for you to be satisfied? How do you propose to get there? What’s the timetable for doing so? As much as you know today…share it. People need to be assured that good things are being planned and on the horizon and clearer water is on the way.

Communicate well – Communication is always important, but especially during times of unrest, confusion or chaos. When the water is muddy, people become frustrated. They need to know what’s happening and what is being done to clear the muddy water. Remember, effective communication is speaking and listening. Do both. Do them often. Do them well.

Stand strong – Muddy currents can pull you under quickly. You will heed to be firmly anchored as a leader. Make sure you are keeping yourself healthy, emotionally, physically and spiritually so you can navigate the muddy waters.

Challenge when needed – During difficult times…in especially muddy conditions…there will be some who try to disrupt any positive change that occurs. You’ll have to challenge those who want to add more mud to the water. If you have to remove some who prefer to stay muddy…do so. Instead, lead with those who grab a shovel and help clear the mud.

Keep casting clearer water – You’ll have to encourage with a healthy vision of where you are going over and over again. This is the time for leaders to be very visible and very approachable. People will want to know someone is guiding the ship though the improving waters.

Have you ever navigated through muddy water? Any suggestions you’d add?

7 Criteria to be a Change Agent Leader

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In my observation, many leaders want change and know they need to lead change, but they haven’t been able to actually produce change. I think there are reasons for this. The process of change isn’t easy. Not every church, business or non-profit will tolerate change…or at least to the level prescribed by a leader. Some leaders simply don’t know how. (That’s not a slam. It’s a reality statement.)

I believe change is necessary for growth. I don’t think everything has to change. Some things never should. But, change, even the hardest kind of change, has to occur if progress towards worthy visions is going to continue to occur.

This post is sort of a gut check for those who want to lead change.

If you want to be a change agent leader:

You have to be willing to fail - Not all change will work. You can strategize and plan, but change at some level involves the risk that it may not work. Are you prepared for that?

You need to be able to withstand criticism – Change invites pushback. Change changes things. (That’s deep, isn’t it?) Change is uncomfortable and people will tell you the degree of discomfort they are feeling. Sometimes in passionate…even mean ways. You’ll feel unpopular at times.

You must evaluate and be willing to adjust accordingly - You can’t be a change agent and equally be a control freak. You are leading people through sometimes muddy waters. You’ll need to solicit buy-in from others. You will need to collaborate. You’ll need to process the success rate of the change and recalibrate as needed.

You have to outlast the opponents of change – When the naysayers show up you’ll have to stand strong to the vision of change for which you believe is worth fighting. It will take longer than you hope it will at times and you’ll have to stand the test of time.

You must think bigger than today – Change is always going somewhere new. Always. So you have to be able to think about the options that aren’t currently on the table. You’ve got to think beyond now and even beyond the most immediate future. You have to look for what others can’t see, choose not to or are afraid to see (or admit).

You have to challenge status quo - That’s the kicker, isn’t it? You have to go against the way things are being done and the way things have always been done. We are talking about change. Get it? Change. That means something is changing. (Oh, such a deep post.) You have to move people from the center on which they’ve grounded themselves.

You have to have a DNA in which to work that is conducive to change – And here’s another kicker. Every church and every organization in which you are called to bring change isn’t wired for change. The fact is that some of those said churches and organizations are going to die…they’ll stall…perhaps for long periods…but they’ll eventually just fade away…and nothing you can say or do will encourage otherwise. In the end, you can’t lead people where they don’t want to go. The sooner you can learn that fact the quicker you can try to be a change agent where change will actually occur.

Well, those are some hard realizations. I’ve studied and observed them by working with dozens of churches, businesses and non-profits and in the organizations and churches in which I have led.

What have you seen as necessary criteria to be a change agent?

Making Good Changes in a Highly Structured Environment

The best

We had a situation recently where a staff member felt the need to make a change in his area of ministry. It would save the church lots of money, is more in line with our vision, and would have a greater Kingdom impact. Sounds like a no-brainer to me.

It’s the best decision.

Problem? It’s changing the way something has been done for years and something that is very popular.

We are a 104 year old church. Every church acclimates towards a defined structure…an established way of doing things…some traditions. Even if that tradition is continual change (which this church is not), every church (and every organization) forms a unique DNA of how things are done. In our setting, it’s developed into a highly structured environment of systems and procedures, which makes change more difficult than in some churches. This is not atypical of an older, established church.

We talked about what would have to be done in order for this change to be successful. Who to talk to. Which committees need to weigh in. Who the influencers are in this area of ministry. Part of being an established, highly structured church.

His statement hit me hard. It’s one I think we often confuse in making organizational changes, probably especially in the church. (Which is often very slow to accept change.)

He said, “I just hate having to be so political in making what we know is the best decision.”

I completely understand his concern, but it’s in that statement that exists the confusion.

I said to him, “You have already made the right decision. That’s what we will do. We just have to be strategic in the implementation.”

And that is what it takes to make disciples…to grow a church…to stop stagnation.

Make the right decision.

The best decision. Use collaboration not control, but do what is best for the church or organization.
Not the one that makes you popular, or even the one that causes the least conflict, but the wisest, most promising decision. That’s good leadership.

But be strategic in the implementation.

Take your time. Establish trust. Build consensus. Talk to the right people. Even compromise on minor details if necessary. Accommodate special requests if possible and if it doesn’t affect the outcome. Be political if needed. It’s part of the process, especially in a highly structured environment. (Does that describe any churches you know?)

Structured environments shouldn’t keep you from making the right decisions involving change. They just alter the implementation process.

Knowing this difference provides freedom to visionary pastors and leaders in highly structured environments. You can make the change. You can. You’ll just have to be smarter about how and when you make them.

Do you understand the difference in decision making and implementation? How does that shape your process of making change?

5 Times Change is Hardest

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Change is hard. Almost always. Sometimes change is harder than other times. It’s then where leadership is tested. Tensions can mount. And people are more likely to object.

It’s good to know these times before a leader approaches change. Change is necessary. In fact, while change may produce conflict, without change there will be conflict. Read THIS POST For more on that statement. Since change is necessary and inevitable, understanding these scenarios before we attempt change may help us lead change better.

Here are 5 times I’ve discovered that change is hardest to accept and implement:

When there hasn’t been change in a very long time. Change becomes more comfortable when it occurs regularly. When nothing has changed for a period of time, people feel even more uncomfortable and are likely to resist more. Leaders in this scenario should make smaller changes to get small wins to hopefully spur hunger for more change, or at least stretch the comfort level for change again. Ease into it.

When there isn’t a culture of change. Sometimes people are conditioned against change. Imagine a work environment where everyone wears the same colored pants and shirt every day. Black pants and white shirt uniforms. Remember IBM? I was raised to believe they had “uniforms” of black suits and white shirts. Apparently, they never had a policy of a strict dress code. It just sprang up as culture. Changing that culture took years. When the culture is sameness, leaders often have to address culture before they address change.

When the vision for change isn’t abundantly clear. This doesn’t mean people will always agree with the change even if it is clear. Some people never agree with change. Any change. But, when there doesn’t appear to be a compelling reason for the change, opposition is more likely to occur. Good leaders help people understand the why behind the change as much as possible. It would be better to over communicate than under communicate.

When there isn’t an obvious or capable person to cast the vision and lead the change. People follow leaders they trust. It is vital when implementing change that a leader be in place who can carry the charge for the change. In cases where there is not a clear person to own the vision of change, I usually back away from the change until the leader is in place.

When the risk seems bigger than the return. By definition, faith moves us into the unknown. When we can’t discern the return on the risk we are more likely to object. While this needs to be understood, it should also be understood that anything of value requires risk. Obedience to God requires faith. Every time. So the greatest things we can achieve in life will almost always appear to have bigger risk than the return we can see in the beginning. Good leaders challenge people beyond their level of comfort. Leadership is the tension between the comfort of where we are and the potential of where we could be.

Again, none of these are reasons not to change, but understanding these can help us better navigate through change.

What other reasons have you noticed that make change especially difficult?

The Reality of Change and Conflict

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Change invites conflict.

You can’t escape that fact.

But…

Avoiding change stifles growth.

Which eventually leads to conflict.

(Ever been a part of a declining organization…or church?)

And…

Avoiding conflict allows tension to build.

Which in the end creates more conflict.

(Ever seen what happens when someone is silently angry with you long enough?)

Therefore…

In my opinion…

Avoiding conflict or change is impossible.

At least in this world…

How are you doing at trying to avoid either?

7 Vital Steps Prior to Implementing Major Change

Chalkboard with text Changes

As a pastor and leader, I am continually dealing with change. Everyday. Change is a part of life. For all of us.

Some change occurs without us doing anything. Some change is so routine it requires little thought or preparation by the leader. But, when making major change…change that impacts everyone…change the may be controversial…there are some steps to take before you begin implementation. Failing to do most or all of these, in my experience, could derail the effectiveness of the change. Keep in mind, these are steps I take. You may have a better system in place. If so, please help me learn from you.

Here are 7 steps before implementing major change:

Establish trust authority – I wrote about this principle HERE. Leaders shouldn’t attempt to implement change until they have enough trust of the people to solicit the support necessary for the change. You will need people to follow your leadership and that requires an established relationship of trust. Leaders need to be careful to not move until enough trust is in place for the size of the change. This doesn’t mean people will trust, or even like, the change, but it does mean they have trust in the leader.

Personal confidence and conviction – Check your heart. Have you prayed about it? Do you sense any reason you shouldn’t do it? In my experience, God gives tremendous freedom to us in how we carry out the mission. That’s why there are hundreds of styles and structures of churches all carrying out the same Great Commission. But, before you do anything else, make sure you are in this enough to see it through. Would you be willing to fight the naysayers on this one? Are you willing to lose people over it? I’m not saying it will come to that, but that’s the level of commitment you need to have before you introduce major change.

Leadership – Make sure you get buy in from those who will most likely end up implementing the change. Personally, I’m seldom willing to move forward if the staff I’ve surrounded myself with doesn’t believe in the change. There may be times I need to vision cast better and help them see the need, but their support is critical if major change is going to be successful.

Focus group – On major changes, I like to bring in a group of people who are generally supportive of my leadership, but represent all the major groups within the church. I cast the vision for the change, get their feedback and answer questions. Again, they may or may not immediately agree with the change, but I know they will be a respectful audience. I always tell them that as a leader, I will have to follow the direction I feel God is leading me, but I value their input in the process of discernment. (And, I genuinely do. Make sure you are open to this as a leader.) This step always makes the change better by their input and helps build a base of support for the change.

Stakeholder analysis – I wrote about this concept HERE. I try to know the most interested and influential people in the particular change. We attempt to reach out to them first. Again, this step builds support among influencers and usually further enhances the change with their input and hopefully their support. Many times this group become supporters of the change, or at least they don’t work against it, because they feel included in the process. (Again, leader, make sure you are open to this input. You need people to make any change effective. The more buy-in you get early the more effective you will be.)

Major questions answered – (Or a plan to get them.) One of my goals is getting as many answers to questions as possible on the table before the change is implemented. We can never anticipate all the questions or scenarios that will arise, but the more we can address in advance the better prepared we will be to handle them when they do. In each of the groups listed here, I always ask what questions are in the room and what questions they may sense others will have.

Timetable – It is impossible to do this perfectly, but having a planned approach to implementing the change makes the change more successful. This needs to be planned, as much as possible, before the change implementation begins. People WILL ask this question. Be realistic with your timetable, but don’t be afraid to let it stretch you either. The best change requires an element of faith.

Those are some of the steps I think through before making major change. As a pastor, I know God has called me to lead a church that will always need to be changing as the people we try to reach our changing. Refusing to change simply diminishes our effectiveness and shortens our lifespan as a local church. The more I can do to prepare people for change, the more effective that change can be.

Any steps you would add?