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Accepting Change and Moving Forward

October 2, 2023


Written by Cynthia Greer, ICM professor and Rule 31 instructor

For the past 18 months, I have worked with many organizations and cities that are experiencing tremendous growth, limited resources, and conflicted personnel.  In some instances, the employees may be the deciding factor as to whether these entities will be successful and even survive.  That is because many people—even though it is inevitable—resist change at all costs.  By doing so, they create conflict and chaos.

In all my conflict resolution classes at academic institutions, my ADR trainings, and as a part of any consulting agreement I have, I recommend that individuals read Our Iceberg is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Circumstances by John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber.  The authors state that , “Our Iceberg is Melting is a simple fable about doing well in an ever-changing world.”  Specifically, the fable is about an Antarctica penguin colony dealing with the real danger of losing their home.  Various penguins demonstrate the personalities we see in both our professional and personal lives: the doubter, the know-it-all, the head-in-the-sand individual, the bully, the nagger, the optimist—hopefully, you get the picture.  

The fable suggests the necessary steps in making major changes in organizations and/or in our personal lives so that we will be better able to handle the challenges of change well so that we can be successful, content, and happy.  Whether it be a company, a divorcing couple, or parents developing a co-parenting plan, change is going to happen. And, at times, changes occur more quickly than we anticipate.  As John Kotter states, it is essential “to clarify how the future will be different from the past, and how you can make that future a reality.”

We all know that living and working in environments that are stagnant, uncooperative, and duplicitous cause us to, at times, become pessimistic.  And this then creates a toxic cycle that will negatively affect our health, our work, and our relationships.  Instead, we need to think about the importance of continuous effective communication, an attitude of problem-solving, and creative innovation.  In other words, we need to examine the roles of thinking and feeling in our daily lives.

The authors suggest 8 Steps to Successful Change which, I feel, are applicable to all situations where there may be differences of opinions, misunderstandings, and simmering conflicts.  Those 8 steps include:

1. Generate Urgency

It is crucial to help individuals understand that they may be at risk (domestic violence, health concerns, abundant stress, etc.) and that immediate change and action are necessary to protect them, their loved ones, or their company.

2. Form a Strong Team

This may include credible professionals (a counselor/therapist, minister, attorney, or mediator, etc.) who have excellent communication and interpersonal skills and that understand a sense of urgency.

3. Create a Vision and Strategy

With the assistance of professionals, clearly define the future and determine how to deal with changes and how to create positive changes.  In other words, be proactive rather than reactive.

4. Send Out a Clear, Inspiring Message

With family members or co-workers, communicate your vision so that they will understand your perspective—why and how you feel there needs to be change—and will motivate them to be supportive of your actions.

5. Encourage Others to Take Action

Empower others to help you in removing barriers and obstacles by showing them how change will benefit you and them.  Make it personal in that this is going to help all of us.

6. Get Momentum With Quick Wins

Set short-term and long-term goals that will demonstrate visible successes.  By demonstrating early success, people are motivated and encouraged to participate.

7. Keep Moving Forward

Don’t let up. Be focused and persistent.

8. Embed the Changes in Your Daily Life

Hold yourself and others accountable.  Hold on to your new ways of behaving,  If necessary, refocus on why change was necessary, and repeat new behaviors and successes until they become the norm.

The Institute for Conflict Management (ICM) is housed in the College of Leadership & Public Service at Lipscomb University. ICM provides you with the skills necessary to create productive environments for all. Our graduate curriculum ensures you move forward in your career with the ability to diagnose, manage and heal conflicts in all settings. We offer diverse network opportunities and unique training to give you a variety of learning and application opportunities. Professionals interested in earning graduate degree credit have the option of earning an M.A. in Conflict Management or a Graduate Certificate in Conflict Management.

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