The Four Phases of Change on Your Personal Leadership Journey
True change has very little in common with the flick of a light switch (or winning an election).
Yes, the light goes on, but it goes off just as easily – there is no stickiness or real shift. It’s just on, off, on, off. True change is much more like a journey. When you know the phases of change, you can bring awareness to where you’re currently stuck and make conscious choices to continue to move forward.
What if you’re instigating a career change or moving overseas or your organization was acquired? Even more relevant for so many now is moving forward when your candidate lost the election? Certainly, the answer is not to just roll over with passive acceptance. You can and must empower yourself to navigate your personal leadership journey through the change and use it as a catalyst for transformation.
I’ve been a change practitioner for over 20 years and strongly believe that there are things you can do to accelerate your personal change journey through each of the phases of change. Like all journeys, the change journey begins and ends with you moving. Body, heart, mind and soul all need to make the shift.
The Four Phases of Change on Your Personal Leadership Journey
Phase One: Physical
This is where it all starts – you make a move either by choice or a force outside of your control.
This is the easiest shift to make regardless of logistical complexity. In this phase, you’re moving from point A to point B.
My client moved from the suburbs to the City to double down on his commitment not only to his day job, but also his passion as a photographer of people in urban settings.
Another client’s company was acquired, and she had to leave her comfortable office she’d been working out of for years into a shared space.
Yet another had to reschedule countless meetings and immediately travel home to be with her father in the last days of his life.
Make the Leap Tip:
A to B can have a zillion details to juggle. Put them all on a checklist and work through it.
Phase Two: Emotional
Change is rarely easy even when you ace the logistics. You will likely feel a sense of loss regardless if you’re moving towards something wonderful or facing an unplanned tribulation.
There’s no need to push down the emotions that keep bubbling up during your change. You need to feel them and engage with them before you can let them go and move forward. It’s also essential to identify the core of the emotion. What is it about the change that’s leading to the most upset? Often, the heart of the emotional distress is masked or suppressed. Other times, the cause is clear. The bottom line is that smart leaders are unafraid to get to what’s underneath.
Coming face-to-face with emotion may make you feel weak or stupid or less masterful because it’s outside of your safety zone. So what? It’s essential for you to reframe that thought. Emotions are the heartbeat of life.
My client Jackie was a seasoned executive on her way from Senior Director to Vice President. We worked together to accelerate her success and promotion timeline.
A week prior to our scheduled call, Jackie found out that her son had an illness that would require ongoing care. True to form, she quickly put a plan in place but at the office was struggling to maintain her focus. She was also short tempered with her team which was out of character; they were driving her nuts. Jackie realized that her team didn’t dramatically shift their performance in a week but that something else was happening with her.
At the start of our session, Jackie asked if we could talk about something personal, her son. For our hour together she worked through the rawness of her son’s new reality and was able to begin to assimilate her feelings. Almost immediately she was able to take a deep breath and get back on track with her critical work projects too.
Jackie was not a corporate zombie, but a leader with a full life. In her effort to segment, she stopped herself from accepting her child’s health issue and was unable to remain on target at work. As I often tell clients, half a person can’t be a whole leader.
Make the Leap Tip:
Take a beat and find a trusted advisor, mentor, coach or friend and be with the emotions you’re experiencing – the whole crazy messy lot of them. Emotions indicate aliveness and a human rawness. If you don’t want to talk it through, write about your emotions in a journal. Getting to the root of your emotional distress puts you in control instead of at emotion’s whim. You choose how, but get the feelings on the table instead of packed way in a suitcase and stored in a closet only to be reopened days, weeks or months later.
NBA Player Carl Landry Demonstrates the Value of Persistence in Life and Work
Written by: Jon Sabes
When you meet Carl Landry, stand-out college basketball player and nine-year NBA player, you imagine that becoming a professional basketball star was a straight forward run for the 6-foot-nine-inch power forward.
However, when you go deeper into Carl’s background, becoming a NBA professional was less than certain and little came easily to the 33-year-old from Milwaukee:
- He was cut from his high school team as a freshman and averaged less than ten points a game when he did play as a senior.
- He started his college career not at Purdue, but a junior college where it was not clear he would play.
- When he finally got to Purdue, he tore his ACL in his knee his first year and reinjured it the next year.
- While his family held a party for him the night of the NBA draft, he slept in the Philadelphia airport after missing a flight following a workout for the 76ers.
- In the NBA playoffs, Carl had a tooth knocked out, but came back in the same game to make a game-winning blocked shot as the Rockets beat the Utah Jazz 94-92.
Landry, who I interviewed on my podcast, Innovating Life with Jon Sabes (www.jonsabes.com), is a remarkable example of the value of “persistence.” In a time where technology creates the image that anything is possible at the touch of a button, persistence is an under-appreciated trait. When I spoke with Carl, I clearly saw someone for whom success has only come through a force of will that made him a NBA player, but it also made him a better player every year he played. That’s the kind of personality that has produced greatness in business as well as sports.
Carl was, in fact, drafted that night he spent in the airport. The Seattle Supersonics chose him as the 31st overall pick and then traded him to the Houston Rockets where he rode the bench for much of the first half of the season. When All-Star teammate Yao Ming was injured, he stepped in and played a key role in the Rockets astonishing 22-game winning streak (the third longest streak in NBA history). And, that season, after sitting on the bench for 33 of the first 36 games, he was named to the All-Rookie second team.
Carl was the first in his family to go to college. “I told myself that this was my ticket out, so I did everything I possibly could to be the best person in school and also on the court,” he said.
His family life in Milwaukee showed him what he didn’t want to do. “Just being honest with you, seeing some my cousins, peers, they went to work for jobs paying six, seven dollars an hour or they didn’t go to work at all and then living off welfare. I didn’t want that.”
When he was first injured, he had to contemplate the end of a career before it even got started. “When you have an ACL tear, it’s over…no more basketball,” he told me. “I said, God, give me health again and I’ll do everything I can to leave it all out on the line and be a successful individual.”
On my podcast, Carl pointed out another interesting lesson he learned in the NBA: Not doing things just to fit in.
“Fitting in was easy,” he said. “Doing everything that everybody else does was easy. If I stood out in some type of way, I’m going to have different results. I’m going to have stand-out results.”
That’s called the “Law of Contrast” and it produces that exact effect of changing the outcomes that everyone else is experiencing. Carl is smart, he recognized that differences make a difference, and doing whatever it takes is what is required to make real, meaningful differences.
Every off-season for the last 11 years, he has run a camp for kids in Milwaukee where he tells youth his story of hard work and persistence. “I always tell the kids to apply themselves and always be persistent,” he said. “If you dream, apply yourself and be persistent. With hard work, man, the sky’s the limit.”
When Carl says the sky’s the limit he means it. He is smart to recognize that it’s important to dream big, because if we don’t – we may be selling ourselves short. “You have to dream bigger than your mind could ever imagine,” he said. “I wanted a nice house. I wanted a nice car. I said, and I got all of that. So, what do I do, do I stop now? Maybe I didn’t dream big enough.” That’s a big statement coming from a kid who grew up to be the first in his family to graduate college and go on to be not only a top NBA basketball start, but a good businessman, father and someone who gives back to the community.
I’m convinced that in whatever he takes on as a basketball player or in his post-hoops career, Carl Landry is not going to stop getting better at whatever he does, and in the process of doing so, make the world a better place.
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