Search the term ‘Change Management’ when you or your company are facing a change, and hundreds of results will be returned. Some link to a model or method like John Kotter’s or William Bridges’, others link to more general advice about successful transition management or change resiliency. There is so much information out there, and when you sift through it all, you’ll find that you can’t buy good change management in a toolkit — but you can build a powerful team to help you through it.
In my early years as a consultant, I was hired by a small firm in San Francisco as their Change Agent. Armed with the company’s doctrine for making good change, I’d collaborate with HR following a downsizing and create a dialogue to help surviving employees process their experience. I call these my punching bag years, because people who have just faced a poorly handled organizational change are often pretty mad about it, and who better to take it out on than the external consultant?
It wasn’t all bad though, and there were companies out there who had made successful changes. Those companies all had one thing in common: they had a powerful guiding coalition. They had a change team, built from people on the front lines who communicated up and down the organization. This team is what made their change so successful. The principle of the team can be applied to any change process you are involved in — from your own start-up, to local city government, or even more personal life changes.
So what’s a guiding coalition and how can you get one?
A guiding coalition is a group of people you can ask for advice and help. They are your support network. A good coalition has a wide range of skill sets. I have diversified my board of advisors over the years and I found that to be very helpful when dealing with the unexpected. When you are thinking about your guiding coalition you might consider some of these categories:
Spirituality/growth — find a mentor to help you continue to learn and grow, to deepen your understanding of the bigger who you are and why you are here. (PS for those of you who aren’t into spirituality, that could be the park ranger ;-).
Creativity — imagination is everything, a creative collaborator will help give you input on new ideas and stretch you out of your comfort zone.
Leadership — being out there and sharing your gifts with people younger or less experienced is a key component to learning new things and sustaining yourself or your business, so find a way to pass it on!
Accountability –a peer coach is essential to keeping yourself accountable; look for someone whom you respect and look up to, they often remind you about some of those goals that might have fallen through the cracks.
Well-being — the best health programs include a team or a personal trainer. If you want peak performance, get a coach ;-) Hint: Your pet might be your coach. They make sure you get the appropriate number of daily kisses, and if you have a pup they also ensure you exercise by walking them!
Change is the only constant we face and getting good at it requires both persistence and flexibility. In Cynthia Scott and Dennis Jaffe’s Transition change curve there is a low point in the resistance phase just before you enter the exploration phase that is called the valley of despair. Your guiding coalition can help you make it through that valley and onto the next phase of your learning.
Your creative genius thrives during change, so why not gather the resources to help make each new change the best one ever!