Embracing Change in Organizations

Key Takeaways:

  • Change starts with a growth mindset.
  • Thinking systematically about change can help us be more effective.
  • Organizational change often requires that we bring others along.

In the words of Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford University and known widely for her work on growth mindsets: “Change can be tough, but I’ve never heard anybody say it wasn’t worth it.”

You have undoubtedly experienced plenty of change within your own life — both personal and professional. We all have. And that’s why this topic is so important. So universal.

I hosted a panel discussion on how to embrace change — from both the individual and organizational perspective. Perhaps what you’re about to read can help you with the constant change surrounding you.

Our panel conversation centered on three strategies to embrace change in organizations:

  • Perform a self-check
  • Identify your landscape
  • Bring others along

Strategy #1: Perform a self-check. Whether you want to more proactively embrace change or accomplish your own change initiatives more quickly, you must first consider how you respond to change and new situations. If you consider change on a spectrum from embracing change with optimism to resisting change with negativity, where do you fall?

Understanding how you navigate new situations can help you get your mind right and ready for change. Returning to Carol Dweck’s work on growth mindsets: “Individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies and input from others) have a growth mindset,” [1].

Performing a self-check and choosing to adopt a growth mindset will allow you to see opportunity to learn and grow from the discomfort and challenges that come with change — whether you are initiating change or responding to it.

Strategy #2: Identify your landscape. Organizational change looks different based on the culture, leaders and issues. If you’re seeking to make a change within an organization, first get clear on your audience: Who is it that you want to influence? (Read more about strategies to understand your audience here.)

Next, get clear on the change: What is the outcome you hope to see in the change process?

Then, get clear on what you can do: Based on your role within the organization, what can you influence? If you’re an individual contributor, can you talk with a supervisor or colleague about your change intentions? If you’re a leader, what processes do you need to put in place to allow your team to navigate your change? (If you’d like insights on how to craft this message of change, check out this article).

Strategy #3: Bring others along. As we’ve discussed, change is tough. Casting an inspiring vision can be an invaluable tactic in motivating others to change (see more on inspirational appeal as the most effective influence strategy here).

In her research on growth mindsets, Dweck cites the power of “yet” to inspire positive orientations toward change and growth [2] — that old saying ‘We’re not there yet’ drives individuals and groups to perform with the expectation that they can get there, that they can change.

By establishing a clear and motivating picture of what’s possible, communicating progress and celebrating milestones, we can bring others along in our quest for change.

If Greek philosopher Heraclitus was right when he said, “Change is the only constant in life,” then we would all do well to think about how we might embrace change by adopting a growth mindset, acting on what we can change, and doing our part to bring others along.


[1] https://hbr.org/2016/01/what-having-a-growth-mindset-actually-means

[2] https://youtu.be/J-swZaKN2Ic

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