There were many moments in my career as a change leader when I didn’t understand why organizational change has evolved in a certain way. Especially as the change was designed by the book and competencies were in place. It took several years to understand in-depth how individual and collective emotions influence the change direction and group dynamics.
With that in mind, the most important piece of advice for change leaders is to create a safe space with a reflection partner to make sense of the transition they are going through and leading. Change leaders are equally leading transitions and are in transition themselves.
We can’t navigate high uncertainty without a strong anchor. The role of the reflection partner can be fulfilled by a mentor, a coach, a line manager, or any other person with solid listening and reflection skills. Ideally, the reflection partner will have a neutral agenda, competence, resonance, and experience to support and develop our thinking around technical and emotional matters.
Without managing our feelings of anxiety during change, there is a high risk we will project our discomfort to others. As a result, we start to protect ourselves from the emotional experience of the change, rather than lead. Unfortunately, the protection will become a wall that will block relevant feedback from others around how reality evolves during change, which is critical for decision-making and reality-testing our plans.
Change brings a gift: the evolution of our thinking. It makes us vulnerable, so we open up to new ideas and ways of being. It plants seeds that later bloom. But without a reflection partner, some of these seeds could go to waste unless we give them the space to grow.