Monthly Archives: April 2015

Bridges to Success with Change Management

“Change happens to people. Transition, on the other hand, is internal: it’s what happens inside people’s minds when they’re presented with change.”                    

Dr. W Bridges

Man jump

The previous blog highlighted the three phases of the transition period, as written by Dr. William Bridges in his book called Managing Transitions – Making the Most of Change.  Here are a few strategies that Bridges recommends for helping staff deal with each phase:


¨     Identify who’s losing what

¨     Accept the relativity and importance of the subjective losses

¨     Expect and accept the signs of grieving

¨     Compensate for the losses

¨     Give people information, and do it again and again

¨     Define what’s over and what isn’t

¨     Treat the past with respect

¨     Show how endings ensure continuity of what really matters.

 Time Management

The Neutral Zone

People need to realise that this is a time when a necessary re-orientation and redefinition is taking place, rather than just meaningless waiting, fear and confusion.  Some strategies are:

Create temporary systems for the Neutral Zone

Try to protect people from further changes; review/create policies, procedures and roles to help people deal with this time; set short-range goals and checkpoints.

Strengthen intragroup connections

Old problems and resenments are likely to resurface. It is therefore important to rebuild a sense of identification with the group and connectedness with each other.

Use a transition monitoring team

A transition monitoring team is valuable – a group of 7-12 people from as wide a cross-section of the organisation as possible, can provide management with important feedback, and also let staff know that their views and feelings are important.

Use the Neutral Zone creatively

Capitalise on the opportunity that the Neutral Zone provides to do things differently and better.

 3.       New Beginnings

¨     Time it properly

¨     Clarify and communicate the purpose

¨     Don’t expect positive results prematurely

¨     Create a plan, and give people a part to play in the plan

¨     Reinforce the new beginning:

  • Be consistent
  • Ensure quick successes and celebrate them
  • Symbolise the new identity

 How do you and your organisation rate in terms of implementing the above strategies?

What (if anything} needs to change?

Managing Change and Uncertainty

Moving Market Share

How do you and others in your organisation deal with the challenges of major change and uncertainty?  I want to draw on the writings of Dr. William Bridges, with whom I was very impressed when I listened to him at a Human Resources conference in Sydney some years ago.  Bridges has written a book called Managing Transitions – Making the Most of Change, which is still as relevant as the day he wrote it.

Bridges’ book discusses the strategies that can help people move on from denial and resistance to exploration and commitment (as per the previous blog and my words, rather than his).

Bridges states that the reason why most major change programs are not effective is that they do not address the people issues.  He says, “Transition is different (from change).  The starting point for transition is not the outcome but the ending that you will have to make to leave the old situation behind.  Situational change hinges on the new thing, but psychological transition depends on letting go of the old reality and the old identity you had before the change took place.  Nothing so much undermines organisational change as the failure to think through who will have to let go of what when change occurs. “

Bridges identifies three phases during the transition period.  These are:


Endings: The failure to address the endings and losses that change brings about is the single biggest reason for the failure of change programs.

 The Neutral Zone: This comes after the letting go of the old, but not yet embracing the new.  It is the limbo land between the old sense of identity and the new.  The old is gone and the new doesn’t feel comfortable yet.

New Beginnings: People usually successfully make the new beginning only if they have first made an ending and spent some time in the neutral zone.  Most organisations pay no attention to the need to properly address endings, and do not recognise the existence of the Neutral Zone.  They then wonder why their staff have so much difficulty with change.

Facilitating Change concept in word tag cloud

Many organisations lack the awareness or unwillingness to address these three phases.  I was once asked to work with two large companies which were about to undergo a merger.  A consultant hired to oversee the change management training said to me, “I’ve found that a two-hour training session is enough time to help staff deal with change.  Wouldn’t you agree?”  I told her that I definitely didn’t agree, and the end result of our discussions was that all the staff received a half-day workshop, and the managers an extra half day, given their key role in helping to ensure sustained benefits from the training.

In more recent years I have also worked with organisations which have been prepared to deal with these key issues.  In my next blog, I will discuss various strategies that Bridges recommends for dealing with each of the above three phases.

How have you, others and the organisation dealt with the above three phases?

What (if anything) needs to be done differently?


Change Isn’t What It Used to Be!

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”                                                                                                                               Lao Tzu

Change Word Barrier Breaking Revolution Adapting

These words were uttered 2500 years ago, yet are relevant today.  Ashleigh Brilliant  quipped that change isn’t what it used to be – this also contains some truth.  Change is increasing at an exponential rate; just consider all the technological and other changes impacting us in the last 20 years to recognise this.

How do we deal with all this ongoing change?  Some personality models suggest that some of us deal better with change than others, and in fact, even thrive on change. 

For instance, the DiSC model suggests that personalities who are primarily Directing (outgoing and task focused) or Influencing (outgoing and people focused) tend to embrace change more effectively and enthusiastically than those who are primarily Stabilising (reserved and people focused) or Cautious (reserved and task focused).

Another model suggests that we tend to go through four phases when dealing with major change and uncertainty.  It was adapted from the one developed by Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, who discussed the five stages of grief related to death and dying in her ground-breaking book On Death and Dying in 1969.  The stages she defined were: (1) Denial (“This can’t be happening – not to me”), (2) Anger (“Why me?  This isn’t fair.  Who is to blame?”), (3) Bargaining (“I’ll do anything if I can have a few more years.”), Depression (“I’m going to die soon so why bother with anything?), and finally Acceptance (“I can’t fight it, so I may as well prepare for it.”).

The four-phase change management model that I use with organisations is as follows:

Denial:Refusal to acknowledge the reality of the change (“This isn’t happening,” or “I’ll just ignore it.”).

Resistance: Refusal to accept and work with the change (“This is terrible!  I”ll fight it.”).

Exploration: Not fully embracing the change, but willing to consider it (“This could work.  I’ll try it.”).

Commitment: Fully embracing the change; wanting to make it work (“This is great.  It had to happen.”).

Years ago I was at a seminar on mergers and acquisitions.  At one point a participant stood up and told us that he was part of a company that had been taken over by another company 18 years before.  He indicated that people from the ‘old’ company were still refusing to talk to staff from the ‘new’ company, and were still wearing the ‘old’ company uniform!  I was astounded.  Another participant told us that this had happened to his company too, but it was only twelve years ago! 


Is that denial or resistance?!?

While denial and resistance are very human ways of dealing with major change and uncertainty, and are not inherently ‘bad’, they can be very destructive if they continue in the way demonstrated above.  Perhaps the management of both organisations had a lot to answer for. 

In my next blog, I will discuss ways to help people move from denial and resistance to exploration and commitment.

Do you recognise yourself and others having been in the above phases? 

To what extent were you/they stuck?  What (if anything) helped you/them move on?


Dealing With Difficult People: A Template

“I am thankful for all the difficult people in my life, for they have shown me whom I do not want to be.”Young couple standing back to back having relationship difficult

In our last blog, we promised a template to help you deal with ‘difficult’ people.  Here it is.

Don’t take it personally!  This can be quite a challenge, but try to realise that in many situations you are the ‘bunny’ representing the organisation to a very unhappy, frustrated, angry or ‘difficult’ customer.  They have a strong need to vent their feelings, and you just happen to be the person there at the time!

Develop a partnership mindset.  Instead of seeing the other person as the ‘enemy’, try to see yourselves as partners in a problem-solving exercise, looking for a positive outcome.  It’s amazing how differently they can respond if you respond with this mindset.

Breathe!  When we become stressed, we tend to breathe very shallowly.  Breathing deeply can reduce some of this stress.

Change negative self-talk to positive self-talk . What are you telling yourself?  “This is terrible!”  “Why does it always have to be me?” and so on?    Change it to something like “I can deal with this”, “We can get a positive outcome here”, and so on.

Be creative in exploring options for solving the problem.  There is a problem-solving technique called Appreciative Enquiry, which gets us to look at what has worked up till now and build on that, rather than focussing on the problem and looking for options to fix it.   Work together to find creative solutions to the problem/issues.

Empathise with the other person, and demonstrate active listening skills.  Acknowledge where they’re coming from.  A simple acknowledgement, e.g. “that must be very frustrating for you” can go a long way toward calming the other person down.

Give the other person a few minutes to ‘vent their spleen’ and calm down.  When another person is very upset, it is difficult to have a rational discussion and to resolve the issue. Allow them to express what’s going on for them before you jump in.

When necessary, take time out, and/or debrief with someone supportive.  Dealing with ‘difficult’ people can be very stressful.  Talk to someone who really does care!

You may ultimately need to be assertive and stand up for your rights or emphatically state your boundaries.  If the other person continues to be belligerent or very unreasonable despite your doing all of the above, you need to be very firm.  You ultimately have a right and a need to be treated with respect.

By carrying out the above practices, there is a strong chance that the outcomes will be very different, whether it’s with customers, work colleagues, your boss, friends, family, or whoever.   You may even find that the theme of your interactions could change from difficult people dealing with difficult people to reasonable people dealing with reasonable people!

 How effectively do you deal with difficult people?  Which of the above tips would help you to deal more effectively with them? 

Narayan and Tulsi



Difficult People Dealing With Difficult People!

 “Inner peace begins the moment you choose not to allow another person or event to control your emotions.”Businessman shouting at the phone

We all have to deal with ‘difficult’ people in one form or another.  This word is in inverted commas because it is quite subjective.  If I have a strong view about an issue and you don’t agree with me, I may be calling you difficult.  Then again, you may also be calling me difficult.  I was given the workshop topic by a client who asked me to provide some training in this area for them.  It was Difficult People Dealing With Difficult People!

I thought the title rather quaint – hence the title of this blog. It also embodies some truth, since both parties in a conflict might find the other person difficult.   The sad fact is that most people aren’t adept at resolving conflict.

People whom we respect can have mannerisms, attitudes or behaviours that we see as foibles or even endearing.  We are quick to forgive them for these traits.  On the other hand, people whom we don’t respect or are getting in the road of achieving our objectives don’t have to do much at all for us to react negatively.  It is so easy to project our fears, values, dislikes, etc. onto others and not realise that this is what we’re doing.  A key challenge is to become aware of this and to communicate, both verbally and non-verbally, in more constructive ways.

I recently delivered some ‘Dealing With Difficult People’ workshops for council staff who have to enforce the law, such as Rangers who have the unenviable job of issuing parking tickets.  You will probably appreciate that no one likes receiving a fine (the word ‘fine’ is a bit of a misnomer – fine as a revenue earner for councils but not so fine for people receiving them).

You will probably also understand that members of the public have a clear way of letting the rangers and other law enforcement officers know that they are not happy!  Some can be very aggressive.  In the workshops, I challenged the participants to try and see it from the other person’s perspective, without reneging on their duties.  In other words, they should try to both feel and demonstrate empathy (as compared with apathy or sympathy – over-identification).  I also taught the participants to be assertive rather than aggressive or submissive.

The positive end result of these workshops was that most participants recognised there was scope for them to remain professional, empathic and assertive, while carrying out their jobs.

The next blog will provide a template which we have used in our workshops, and which participants have reported to be very helpful in dealing with ‘difficult’ people.

Are you one of those difficult people that others are challenged by and go to workshop training for, to learn how to deal better with you?!?

Narayan van de Graaff