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Caldwell: Get out in front of change

“Change is the law of life, and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” – John F. Kennedy

Change is inevitable and unavoidable.

You can either do change or change will do you, and it won’t be pretty. Whether you are making changes personally or professionally, making positive change stick is a key indicator between success and failure.

The blueprint for successful change is rarely a straight, linear or perfect process. There will be difficulties and setbacks. External forces will conspire to support or oppose you, often simultaneously. The following recommendations will streamline your designs for successful change:

Get a clear vision of the results you want and identify the specific goals for the change initiative. Ask yourself and your team, “What do we really, really, really want?” and “Why do we really, really, really want it?” It is remarkable how many people are not clear about what they really want and why they really want it and end up underperforming and not realizing their full potential.

Once you have a clear vision of the change and why you want it, identify the barriers, whether they are real or perceived, and develop plans to overcome the obstacles to success. There will be tension and stumbling blocks to realize your vision and having solid plans will keep the momentum going.

Brainstorm on the possible unintended consequences of the new changes. In your business, changing your global distribution strategy could result in new issues around customer service, order fulfillment and supply-chain optimization. Personal change, such as a new health/wellness improvement plan, could result in buying new, smaller clothes, updated exercise equipment and increased energy. Bring in all of your experts to plan for the contingencies and use the “what if” question to evaluate the positive and negative impact of your change initiative. Compile all of this valuable information and create an interactive planning document.

Once you have created your planning blueprint, you can now turn to the people side of the change process. Humans go through a four-phase mental change process either consciously or subconsciously. By understanding these phases, you will be able to support yourself and your team and solidify the change for good:

Phase One – Consideration: Individuals need to think about the change and weigh the effect on them personally and professionally. Before a person can move on to the next phase, their fear of the unknown and concern for loss need to be reconciled. It is natural that positive and negative concerns will be in the mix of options. You can help them to evaluate the options and conduct their research. The effective use of role models and coaches are critical at this phase.

Phase Two – Investigation: After deliberation and consideration, people can begin to focus on the real, tangible benefits of the change rather than their perceived losses. Positive outcomes come into view, and possibilities for actions begin to appear. As a leader, you can support your team through education, mentoring, coaching and positive reinforcement.

Phase Three – Activity: Momentum starts to take hold, and people take action. It is important to help your employees believe they will succeed by providing positive feedback and communicating what works and what doesn’t. You can support them to take small incremental steps that can be done every day and, over time, will give them and you the benefits of compounded effort and engagement.

Phase Four – Mastery: By now, you have enough experience to realize positive results and keep the momentum going. At this phase, it is important to have the right structures, processes and team members in place to support the new change. Change for good doesn’t happen overnight, but is instead a process and takes time.

Change is inevitable, but suffering is optional. Now that you have your plans, processes and people aligned, communicate. Meet regularly, formally and informally, and discuss all of the parts of your plan with a view toward discovering its weak spots. Make sure that you and your team go “all in” on the new project. Half-measured effort will yield half-measured results. Your team will know the difference, and your plan will have a greater chance of failure.

Hesitancy is the enemy of positive change. You have to embrace change, know that resistance is futile and adapt or adopt it. You can upgrade your thinking to examine the energy you expended to avoid change and redirect it to take advantage of change. Roll with the phases of change, and you will experience more flow and freedom. The more flexible and agile you and your employees are, the quicker you can move through this change and get ready for the next one, because there is always a next one.

Change and success take time. Building a successful and agile business and career take commitment and time. So does creating an attitude of welcoming and encouraging change – personally and professionally.

Jack Welch once advised, “Change before you have to.” Keep committed to your change success plan, be an enthusiastic role model and celebrate the victories along the way.

• Kathleen Caldwell is president of Caldwell Consulting Group and the founder of the WHEE Institute (Wealthy, Healthy, Energetic Edge) of Woodstock. She can be reached at, or by phone at 815-206-4014.

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