About Steve Barlow

Steve is Managing Director at The Change Gym. He is a Certified Change Fitness Coach and an organisational change readiness consultant. You can contact him on [email protected]

Marketing and Sales: The Secret of Stuck

By |2020-03-07T11:15:10+11:00March 6th, 2020|Categories: Leadership|

Marketing and Sales: The Secret of Stuck

This is the third article in a 3-part series on marketing and sales. In the first article, we considered marketing and sales as engaging in the first two steps of the change process. In the second article, we considered the importance of good communications to help prospects make forward progress through the two steps. In this article, we consider how to help prospects who get stuck.

Stuck Is Normal

You should understand that getting stuck within a step of the change process is not uncommon and it’s quite normal. We will consider some of the main reasons for it in a moment, but you should understand one thing.

Stuck threatens your sale. If you can’t help prospects move out of stuck, they will not convert into clients – at least not yet. So, do what you can to get them unstuck.

Reasons for Stuck

There are 3 main reasons why a prospect might get stuck in one of the 2 steps of the change process. These are:

  • Low trust
  • Fear
  • Confusion

Let’s consider these one by one.

Low Trust – the prospect doesn’t trust you enough and this becomes an obstacle to them. If they don’t trust you, they may not like you, warm to you, feel connected to you, or listen to what you say. They may feel like you want to take advantage of them, or that you’re trying to sell them something that’s good for you, but not for them.

You really need to work on this.

Fear – even if prospects trust you, they may not trust themselves. People have a lot of performance anxiety. Can I do this? Am I good enough? It’s okay for him, but I’m not like him. What if I spend a lot of money and fail? What will other people think? I’m not confident enough to put myself forward. 

Everyone has fears, and it’s okay to have them. But we need to understand what to make of them. Most of the time our fears are based on our imaginations rather than the facts of our circumstance. We fear things we haven’t done yet and we fear what might happen. We undersell ourselves, question our ability, think negatively, and worry too much about what other people will think of us. Other people are probably too busy thinking about themselves to care much about us.

You need to help the prospect handle these fears. Tell them you’ll be there to offer support, or tell them where they can find support elsewhere. Offer them a full refund if they decide that working with you was a bad idea. Do things to help take away their fear.

In reality, what they should be more afraid of is getting stuck and staying stuck.

Confusion – some prospects get confused because their heart says one thing and their head says something else. Or they get too many facts and then get confused. You job is to cut through the confusion and to bring clarity.

You first need to understand why they are confused. Don’t guess – ask them. And then think about how to overcome their confusion in ways they can understand. Remember your audience.

If you find there is a lot of confusion with your prospects, you may well have a communication problem, or perhaps you are not sure what you’re offering. If you come across clear and confident, it’s less likely your prospects will be confused.

Objections

Expect to get some objections. If you don’t handle objections effectively, your prospects will get stuck or go elsewhere. Here are some common objections:

  • It’s too expensive
  • I need more time to think it over
  • I want to talk it over with a friend
  • I need to look at other options

Some people are more risk averse than others, and this could be why they make these objections. But ask yourself these questions. Do they know what they really want? Do they see that your solution will give it to them? Do they trust you? Do they have a sense of urgency about the solution? Do they fully understand how good your offering is?

Often, objections like these say more about you than about the prospect. They say you need to do a better job of leading the prospect through the two steps of change.

Conclusion

I don’t want to be too hard on you – it’s not easy. Believe me, I know this stuff, but that doesn’t mean I actually do it all the time. I do it some of the time, and when I do, it works.

I want to help you understand that marketing and sales are about helping people change. You can think of them in terms of the psychology or marketing or sales, but I prefer to think of them in terms of the psychology of change. To change in a way that advantages them – and you too. There’s nothing wrong with a win-win.

I hope these ideas help. If so, drop me a line and let me know.

Written By Steve Barlow

Steve is a change fitness coach and change readiness trainer and consultant. If you would like some help with any of the ideas presented in this blog, please book a free consultation with Steve.

[email protected]

Marketing & Sales: The Secret of the Stories

By |2020-03-07T10:51:42+11:00March 6th, 2020|Categories: Leadership, Uncategorized|

Marketing & Sales: The Secret of the Stories

This is the second article in a 3-part series on marketing and sales, taken from the perspective of change and change readiness. In the first article, we considered that the two steps of the marketing and sales process and the goals of each step. In this article, we examine how to use communication to move a prospect towards becoming your client.

In the previous article, we considered the imperative to move prospects into greater awareness of their needs and desires, and then move them towards making the decision to work with you. We noted a list of things prospects do in these two steps of the change process. Your job is to help them to move forward and one way you can do that is through targeted communications. Here are some ideas.

Be Clear About Your Prospects’ Needs and Desires

You need to think this through and do some research. What problems do your prospects have and how do these limit them? What does it feel like to have these problems? If they could change their current reality, what would they change it to? What would they eliminate?

If you aren’t clear about issues like these, your communications will be ineffective, and no one will pay attention to you.

Be Clear About How You Can Satisfy Their Needs and Wants

Your product or service may or may not provide a total solution, but it may go a long way towards one. But you must be clear about how it does that. Again, if you are unclear of this, your communications will suffer.

Craft Your Messages

Here are some guidelines to help you with that:

  • Audience – who is the message intended for? You need to speak to a clearly defined avatar, not some general notion of a ‘good prospect’.
  • Purpose – what outcome do you want from your message? Are you raising awareness? Answering a FAQ? Trying to persuade? Asking the prospect to take some action? If you’re not clear about the purpose, the message will be random, and you won’t be able to evaluate its effectiveness.
  • Vocabulary – you need to use words that are relevant to your intended audience. Use words they would use. If you don’t know what that is, do some research.
  • Register – we’re talking about how formal or informal you should pitch your language. This needs to be appropriate to your intended audience.
  • Tone – this refers to your attitude towards your audience and the topic of the message. It could be respectful, sensitive, playful, satirical, cynical, professional, etc. This will come through your message, so make sure you get it right to impact your audience in the way you want.
  • Content – these are the ideas you want to communicate. What do you want to say to your audience? Be very clear about this. Make sure your message ends up saying what you want it to say.
  • Medium – how will you communicate your message? Through a blog post, a Facebook ad, a video on YouTube, a page on your website?
  • Structure – This is how you shape your message through the medium you choose. Make sure the structure of your message is appropriate for the medium. For example, if it’s a blog post, structure it in short sections with multiple headings.

Position Your Solution

Think about how to get across the idea that you have the solution to the prospect’s problem. What makes your solution better than others? Why should they pick you rather than someone else? What unique features can you offer? What are the key features and benefits of your solution?

Think of how you can communicate these messages to your prospects.

Empower Your Language

You want your prospect to believe you have the right solution and they can be successful at it. So, use language that builds up their confidence and belief in themselves. Be realistic about it – if your solution is that good and you can see how it would work for the prospect, let them know it. People often second doubt themselves, but you can help them make a firm decision.

Focus on Benefits

The solution you’re offering may cause some anxiety to the prospect. Remember, if they knew how to solve their problem on their own, they wouldn’t be coming to you. So, in addition to using empowering language, get the prospect to focus on the benefits of your solution. Get them to think about how great it will be when clients are lined up waiting to do business with them, or when they are travelling to an exotic destination.

Support Your Prospect

Support the prospect, but don’t smother them. Lead them towards a decision to work with you, but don’t make them feel like you’re pushing them.

Ask Lots of Questions

Lots of open-ended questions. Ask them what they want to achieve, how much they want it, when they want it, how much they intend to spend, when they want it by, etc. If you ask, they will tell. If they don’t tell, there’s a problem with trust and you need to work harder.

Review

Powerful communication is a tool to keep prospects moving forward through the two steps of change. In the next article, we consider what to do if they stop moving forward.

Written By Steve Barlow

Steve is a change fitness coach and change readiness trainer and consultant. If you would like some help with any of the ideas presented in this blog, please book a free consultation with Steve.

[email protected]

Marketing & Sales: The Secret of the Steps

By |2020-03-07T10:35:25+11:00March 6th, 2020|Categories: Leadership|

Marketing & Sales: The Secret of the Steps

This is the first article in a 3-part series on marketing and sales form a change perspective. If you’re in the early stages of building a business, chances are you have some marketing and/or sales challenges. Even if you’re employed by someone else, I bet you are still involved in marketing or sales in some ways.

Full disclosure: I am not a marketing or sales professional. And you won’t hear what I’m about to share with you from most marketing or sales professionals. Not because they don’t know it, but because they haven’t thought about it in the same way.

I don’t think about marketing or sales like a marketer or salesperson. I think about it as a change specialist. And that makes a lot of difference. Let me explain.

Marketing and sales are two distinct disciplines. They are areas of expertise practised by subject-matter specialists. But they are also a means to an end. A business doesn’t really want a great marketing campaign or a top gun salesperson. What they want is more customers, more clients.

So, if we want more clients, we must recognise what that means. First, it means we need to find good prospects. What’s a good prospect? It’s someone who has a need that your product or service will satisfy. And second, it means getting that person to change from what has been normal – not being your client – to what is new, becoming your client.

And it’s that change journey that interests me.

In this article, I want to help you understand how to lead a prospect along that change journey by knowing the goal of each step. In the second article in this series, I want to show you how to move a prospect along the change journey through targeted communications. And in the third article, I want to show you how to lead a prospect along the change journey by overcoming obstacles that can get them stuck.

The Change Process

You need to understand that the change process has 5 steps. We are only interested in the first two steps – those are the two that are most relevant to marketing and sales. Before we consider the different goals of the first two steps, we need to think about what is possible for a prospect on each of these steps. There are three possible outcomes for each step.

  • The prospect can complete a step and then move forward to the next one
  • The prospect can get stuck on a step, unable to make any progress
  • The prospect can find a step too challenging, give up, and go backwards

In the broadest sense, your job is to help the prospect achieve the first of these three possible outcomes.

The Goals

Let’s think about the goals you should have for the prospect in the first two steps of the change process. The goal of the first step is to lead the prospect towards awareness. The goal of the second step is to move the prospect towards commitment. These should be your goals because these are what the first two steps of the change process are all about.

Towards Awareness – the prospect needs a growing awareness of their need. It could be that something is no longer working for them and they are increasingly out of step with their lived reality. This might cause them pain – either physical pain or psychological pain. They might have a sense that something’s wrong, or things aren’t quite right.

The prospect needs to become aware that there’s a better reality out there, waiting for them. This better reality may be expressed as something they want, something that will put them back in sync with their lived experience. Something that will remove that unnerving feeling that something is wrong.

Without an awareness of need, the prospect can’t make any further progress with change. Your job is to help them become aware of their need with as much clarity and emotion as you can get from them. Get them talking about what’s wrong and how it impacts their life. Ask them to think about life without this problem – how would it be better, what would they be able to do, how would they feel, etc. Help them get in contact with these two realities – the unsatisfactory nature of their current reality and the wonderful reality that will unfold once the problem has been solved.

I think it is fair to say that creating awareness of problems and solutions is largely a marketing task. You put out messages designed to relate to the needs and desires of your target market. Good prospects are people who relate to those messages – “Yes, that applies to me. That is exactly how I feel, and I want those things you describe.” And because they relate to those messages, they are naturally inclined towards what you have to say.

Towards Commitment – this is the Step 2 goal and I believe it is largely a sales goal. To be effective, it’s important to understand what people do in Step 2. Here are some of the things they do:

  • Weigh whether the solution is worth the effort 
  • Consider whether the solution offered is the right one for them
  • Consider the pros and cons of the offered solution
  • Decide whether they have the capacity to make it happen
  • Deal with feelings of uncertainty and insecurity
  • Talk to someone who realistically understand their anxieties and will help them come to a decision
  • Assess who they can trust to guide them
  • Get excited about a future where their problem is solved

This is what people do in Step 2 – they think through the offered solution and decide what to do about it. Some can do this well, and others struggle with it. But, at the end of Step 2, the prospect will decide (make a commitment). They will decide either to accept your solution, or to reject it.

An Example

John began his coaching business 6 months ago and is yet to attract his first fee paying client. He is aware of his marketing problem and he is very worried about it. He worries he won’t be able to pay his bills and his business will fail. But he can also imagine himself as a successful coach. He can picture a waiting list of clients, being busy every day and feeling he is really making a difference. He can imagine having the lifestyle that goes with success – taking holidays to exotic locations, driving a nice car, providing good things for his family.

John is lucky because he knows what’s wrong. Some people haven’t identified that yet. Either way, your job is to help them get connected – emotionally and rationally – with their present reality and the reality they long for.

Let’s say in this example that you operate a marketing business helping coaches get more clients. You create a piece of content and John sees it. This content speaks directly to John’s problem. You sound like you might have a solution that could help him. The result is that he emails you.

The fact that John has emailed you means he has moved from Step 1 into Step 2. He has moved from simply being aware of his reality to wanting to think through the solution you offer. Never underestimate the magnitude of that step.

Now that John is in Step 2, your job is to help him move towards becoming your client. But to do that, he needs to trust you and to know you understand him. He needs to be sure your solution will work, and you need to help him overcome his concerns and answer his questions. If you can do all those things, he is likely to become your client. Step 2 is largely a sales role.

How can you help John along this process? Ask questions, explore, dig. Ask ‘why’. And keep asking. And when you think the prospect is fully aware of and in touch with their problem or opportunity, move them through Step 2.

In Step 2 you move the prospect towards commitment. Commitment towards solving their problem and grasping the opportunity. And commitment to letting you help them do that. At the end of Step 2 you want them to make the decision to become you client.

Review

In this article, we have considered the first things you need to understand about marketing and sales. For your prospect, they mean engaging in the first two steps of the change process.  The better you understand exactly what that means for the prospect, the more likely you are to convert them into a client. If you need help exploring what your prospects need to do and how you can help them do it, reach out to me and I will help.

In the next article in this series, we consider how you can use effective communications to move the prospect through awareness and into commitment.

Written By Steve Barlow

Steve is a change fitness coach and change readiness trainer and consultant. If you would like some help with any of the ideas presented in this blog, please book a free consultation with Steve.

[email protected]

Change Management Toolkit Benefits

By |2020-03-11T20:04:16+11:00January 29th, 2020|Categories: Managing Change|

BENEFITS

  • Based on best-practice change management processes
  • Leverages the natural structure and flow of the change process
  • Guides you through each step of the change process
  • Helps you ask the right questions at each step of the process
  • Practical
  • Easy-to-use
  • Scaleable
  • Apply to any change project
  • Copy and use the toolkit for different change projects
  • Based on 20 years of research and development

BENEFITS

  • Based on best-practice change management processes
  • Leverages the natural structure and flow of the change process
  • Guides you through each step of the change process
  • Helps you ask the right questions at each step of the process
  • Practical
  • Easy-to-use
  • Scaleable
  • Apply to any change project
  • Copy and use the toolkit for different change projects
  • Based on 20 years of research and development

FEATURES

  • Builds in the latest understandings in the psychology of change, change fitness, and change readiness
  • Includes a change management dashboard to track your progress
  • A detailed electronic toolkit containing step-by-step guidelines, tips, and watch-outs
  • A comprehensive set of templates to help you manage your project
  • A printable version of all the guidelines and templates you can use on the fly
  • This is a 21st century toolkit for managing change

You Are the Magic

By |2020-01-20T10:13:45+11:00January 20th, 2020|Categories: Change Fitness|

You Are the Magic

Have you ever felt like you’re not very important? I think most of us feel like that from time to time. I know I have – many times.

It’s easy to feel down on yourself sometimes. Perhaps you feel no one listens to you or cares what you think. Maybe you think no one understands you. Or perhaps you’ve been working very hard on something, yet nobody shows much interest in it.

Whether we’re:

  • building our business,
  • advancing our career,
  • working on our relationships,
  • looking to make new friends,
  • improving our health,
  • or working on other goals

we need to always keep one idea in the front of our minds.

‘I am the magic.’

That’s it.

If I’m going to achieve my goals, it’s up to me to make it happen.

It’s good to have other people who will look out for you and offer support. But others – even close friends and family – are ultimately responsible for their own lives, not yours.

We have to learn to stand on our own feet. If we want all these ‘better’ things, we need to become ‘better’ people. We need to grow and expand. We need to invest in ourselves.

Some people invest in a new car or some other toy to make them feel better about not achieving other things they really want. But smart people know to invest in themselves. They know that they are the magic.

In my opinion, one of the best investments you can make in yourself lies in improving your change fitness. By improving your capacity to succeed at change, you unlock doors to many other things you want from life.

Whether that be a better business, career, relationship, or health, becoming more successful at change makes all those things more within your reach.

You are the magic. Develop your change fitness and go for what you really want.

Written by Dr Steve Barlow

Why a Business Analyst’s Change Readiness Assessment is Crucial

By |2020-01-16T09:36:43+11:00January 16th, 2020|Categories: Change Readiness|

One of The Change Gym’s Directors, Dr Steve Barlow, was recently featured in an article about organisational change readiness. You can read the article below, and then follow the link to the original article written by Paul Crosby.

businessmen

Founders and entrepreneurs often have dozens of good ideas at any one time about how they can move their companies forward. They know that their businesses need to evolve if they are going to stay competitive and grow. However, constant change can wear employees down — and might not be right for the organization in the moment. This is where a change readiness assessment comes in. Learn more about this tool and how business analysts use it to evaluate a company’s capability to handle change. 

What Is a Change Readiness Assessment? 

A change readiness assessment highlights potential problems facing the company as it goes through changes and provides insight into how ready it is for change. Read More >>

How to Predict the Future

By |2019-12-07T19:52:53+11:00December 7th, 2019|Categories: Change Fitness, Change Readiness, Managing Change, The Change Gym|

How useful would it be if you could predict with pinpoint accuracy what will happen in the future? Imagine you could accurately predict the performance of a coaching client over a given time period. Or suppose you could accurately predict how effective any given organisational change approach would be in the long-term.

If you could make those kinds of predictions, you’d have a lot of influence over the future. But is it remotely possible? How confident can you be about what will happen down the track? Well, let’s explore this and see what we can learn.

Computers playing chess

You might have seen chess apps for IOS or Android. These programs can beat the best human chess players in the world. Why? Because computers are better than people at solving the sort of problems you find in chess. Chess is a system with strict rules of what is allowed and what is not, and there are a finite number of possible moves at any given time. Computers excel at situations where there are clear and fixed rules and limited options (even if there are thousands of them).

But computers struggle in situations where the rules are not clear. They struggle when you can’t give them all the variables, and how they affect one another. That’s why they aren’t good at predicting what the weather will be like in 8 days from now.

Butterflies in Brazil

You may have heard of the ‘butterfly effect’. This is the idea that a butterfly fluttering its wings in the rainforests of Brazil could potentially cause a tornado in Kansas. As strange as this might sound, it illustrates something real about how the world works.

Many of the things we deal with in life don’t work like the game of chess. There are no clear rules about how they should work and there are no guarantees that if you do ‘a’ you will get ‘b’.  In fact, you might get something quite unexpected. You might take tiny butterfly steps and get tornado results.

Many things in life work like this. We make decisions at certain points in our lives, and at the time we can’t even imagine that they could change our course altogether. Yet they do. Little things can have big results.

So, butterflies in Brazil teach us that life is unpredictable and that little things can have big outcomes. If that’s true, how confident can we be in predicting our professional outcomes? How can we predict whether a coaching client will make good progress, or whether our approach to organisational change will work?

Making general predictions

Computers are good at chess because there are strict rules and limited options. If you were to play against a computer chess app, I would be pretty confident in predicting the app will win. But it is much harder to predict how any of my coaching clients will perform over time.

Some are very keen at the start and I may feel confident of their success. But then things happen in their lives and their performance suffers. There are no rules governing how they will perform over time. Things happen that sometimes make it hard for them to focus on coaching. And this is even more likely to be the case with organisational change, where many more people are involved.

So, where are we left? Without any possibility of predicting change outcomes?

Not really. Because there are patterns.

You can never predict for sure how any one individual or any one organisation will perform around change, but you can make some useful predictions based on the rules that govern change and what people begin with.

There are some rules (or patterns) that describe how humans engage with change when they do it well. We call this ‘the change process’. We can predict that when people engage with change following these patterns, they are more likely to be successful, and when they don’t follow these patterns, they are less likely to be successful. That is something we can predict.

We can also predict that when people possess the psychological capacity (change fitness) to effectively engage in the change patterns that lead to success, they are more likely to succeed. And when they lack enough psychological capacity (change fitness) to engage in effective change patterns they are less likely to succeed.

And we can predict that when organisations have enough change readiness to engage in effective change patterns, they are more likely to succeed. And when they don’t have enough change readiness to engage in effective change patterns, they are less likely to succeed.

The patterns matter

Although we can never be certain how any one individual or organisation will perform, the patterns still matter. It matters how people approach the change process. It matters how much change fitness and change readiness they have. In fact, these are among the best predictors of success or failure with change.

The patterns matter: they should also matter to you.

What am I saying here? Change is not like a game of chess. There are no clear rules. Although each chess piece can only do certain things, and you can accurately predict the options each piece has, when faced with change, people begin with different capacities and they make unpredictable choices. This becomes ever more complex when more people are involved.

So, you need to look for patterns. There are patterns in how humans engage in change successfully. There are patterns in the psychological resources people need to successfully engage in the change process. And there are patterns in how organisations become ready to succeed at change projects.

When you understand these patterns, and you have ways to measure them, you can make some intelligent predictions about the likelihood of success. You can never be completely certain about success – reality doesn’t allow for that – but you can make some general predictions and act accordingly.

Acting accordingly

Let’s summarise what we have read so far. Some things in life, like chess, are bound by clear rules and there are limits to what is possible. Because of how these things function, you can sometimes predict what will happen. The chess computer will almost always win. And the casino will almost always win in the long run.

But other things in life operate according to fuzzy rules with variables that can’t be easily identified or controlled. The outcomes of these things are much harder to predict. That said, there are patterns we can observe.

Change, whether individual or organisational, is almost always something of the second kind. It has fuzzy rules and obscure variables. Therefore, you must act accordingly.

How do you do that? First, don’t approach change as though it were a chess game. It’s good to have a plan and strategy, but don’t imagine that the rules are clear, that everyone will obey them, and that people’s options are limited by the rules. Don’t imagine that you can know all the variables and how they work. You don’t, you can’t, and people don’t follow the rules.

Instead, approach change as an explorer. Remain open. Observe. Question. Let what is there reveal itself to you. Make small changes, learn from what happens, and take the next logical steps.

Second, learn to recognise the patterns that indicate the likelihood of success or failure. Learn the patterns of the change process, of change fitness, and of change readiness. Let these patterns guide your approach to change and the people you lead.

I invite you to learn more about these success patterns. Discover how to create more of them, and how to use them to manage change. If you would like to learn how to attract greater success, I invite you to reach out to me and let’s have a chat.

Written by Dr Steve Barlow

[email protected]

About The Change Gym

By |2019-11-27T10:29:19+11:00November 27th, 2019|Categories: Uncategorized|

We are a team of change specialists helping organisations and individuals build more capacity to succeed at the change process. For your organisation to become more agile and successful at change, you should develop your change readiness.

Change readiness is a major factor in the success or failure of change projects. It influences how much engagement or resistance you encounter and whether you are likely to be successful. 

Change readiness has an inner and outer dimension. The inner refers to the psychological fitness of stakeholders to be successful at the change process no matter how challenging it is. The outer refers to the readiness of the leadership team and other organisational elements to respond effectively to the demands of the change process, and to nurture people through the process.

Our team specialises in building change fitness in individuals (inner dimension) and change readiness in organisations (outer dimension). You need to do both. According to research, the main cause of failure in organisational change is resistance from employees (an inner dimension problem). Employees with high levels of change fitness are more likely to be engaged and supportive, and less likely to resist.

Research also highlights the second main cause of change failure – poor management. Issues like how you approach change, how you structure interventions, and how and what you communicate all impact the organisation’s change readiness.

Organisational change readiness emerges when the inner change fitness of employees to succeed at the change process combines with the outer change readiness of the organisation to successfully lead and nurture the change process.

We have the knowledge, skills, and resources to guide you towards greater change readiness – in both the inner and outer dimensions. A good place to begin this journey is with a 1-day training program. Scroll down to read more about this.

We are an Australian company working online (or onsite) around the world. 

Change: The Learning Zone

By |2019-11-15T13:59:07+11:00November 15th, 2019|Categories: Change Fitness, Coaching, Programs|

In a previous article, I made the claim that humans are hard-wired for change. My argument there was that, since we have managed to survive and thrive in virtually every ecological niche on the planet (or at least in a diverse range of ecological niches), we are, as a species, very adaptable and not only adaptable but also able to adapt the environment to suit our purposes. Since this is arguably true of modern humans in general, it is logical to assume that deep neurological structures give rise to this capacity.

Hard Wiring

This neurological hard wiring may not have developed for the singular purpose of making us good at change. We understand from the Transtheoretical Model that change involves a great deal of analysis, visioning, planning, and problem-solving. These are all basic survival skills for a creature with a big brain but without many of the ‘mechanical advantages’ of other competitor species (we can’t fly like a bird, run like an gazelle, climb like a monkey, balance like a mountain goat, or swim like a dolphin). But we are very good at analysing our environment and planning our next moves.

We could explore this idea at greater depth and even debate whether big brains are an evolutionary advantage or a probable cause of ultimate demise. However, leaving such issues aside, we should understand that being hard wired for change is no guarantee of being able to use that neurological inheritance to much practical advantage. This is because being good at change requires more than hardware (neurones). We also need the right software (information).

Software

In general, humans all inherit the brain structures that enable us to analyse, vision, plan, and problem-solve. But we don’t all have access to the same information about how to do those things. In other words, there are differences in how well people have learnt to do those things.

And it’s even more than learning how to do things. It also involves developing the psychological strength to do those things and keep on doing those things when there is a psychological, emotional, or even physical pain associated with doing them.

So, being good at change requires us to have the neurological hardware (which, generally, we do) and the right kind of cognitive, emotional, and psychological software. And what cognitive, emotional, and psychological software is the right kind?

This is a complex question and we can’t go into details here. But we can make some broad statements.

Cognitive Needs

On a cognitive level (what we need to know), we need to understand how the change process works. We must understand what’s going on and what we should do to succeed at change. In other words, we need to understand the process we engage in. That might sound simple, but many people don’t really understand how the change process works and what is normal about it.

The second thing we need to understand on a cognitive level is what personal change fitness means. Change fitness refers to a set of psychological capacities that empower us to succeed at the change process. But in addition to developing these capacities, we need to understand what they are and why they are important.

The third thing we should understand on a cognitive level is the system in which we operate. This system (family, workplace, community, national, global) exerts pressure on us as we do on it. We need to have some understanding of this system so we can manage change within it.

Emotional Needs

On an emotional level we need emotional intelligence. We need to be able to regulate our emotions so can best utilise them to our advantage, and the advantage of others. Much has been said about emotional intelligence, so there is no need to say anything more here.

Psychological Needs

On a psychological level we need to understand ourselves and how we function in the world. We need to work on developing more of the change fitness capacities that give us the psychological strength to meet the demands of the change process. And we also need to understand the deep-rooted immunity to change forces that keep us trapped in current realities.

How Do We Do This?

The easiest and most direct way to tune up your change software is through change fitness coaching. Unfortunately, many of the things people learn about themselves and about change make them less likely to succeed at it. How our minds are programmed often leads us to be afraid of change, to resist it, and to run away from it. That is unfortunate because we have the hardware to be better than that. We just need to unlearn some unhelpful lessons and relearn some better ones.

And that’s where change fitness coaching fits in. It targets the most important cognitive, emotional, and psychological issues you need to focus on the reprogram your mind and help you get better at change. And the best place to start is with the Personal Change Fitness Program.

Perhaps, though, you’re not ready to engage in a coaching program. Maybe you would prefer to put your toes in the water first and test it out. You can do that too. You can start with a self-paced, online learning program that doesn’t involve coaching. A good place to start is Understanding the Change Process. This will give you some of the cognitive information you need. And if you decide you want coaching as well, you can always add it on later.

If you need any further information or help, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Written by Dr Steve Barlow

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"The Personal Change Fitness Program will not only make you change-fit, it will really change your life."

Debunking a Popular Myth: the Kubler-Ross Model of Change

By |2019-11-14T07:32:55+11:00November 13th, 2019|Categories: Change Fitness|

The Kubler-Ross Model (of Change)

Many people are familiar with the Kubler-Ross model. This model is often cited as a description of how change works – a model of change, if you will. It is commonly used in business circles to show how people in organisations react to change. However, before we embrace the model, we should understand where it came from. It came from the work of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. She was a medical doctor who helped people who were dying.

What is a Model?

We should be clear about what a model is. It is a way of representing some reality, often an abstract reality. It represents patterns in the world. Kubler-Ross’ model represents patterns in how people react to mortality, or loss.

A change model would need to represent patterns in how people engage with change. It would seek to answer questions like: how do humans typically respond to and engage with change?

It is sometimes claimed that humans are hard-wired to resist change. The idea is that change involves risk, and humans are hard-wired to avoid risk and seek safety. I think there is truth in this claim, but, it doesn’t capture the full picture.

How successful a species is depends on how you measure success. But you could argue that humans are one of the most successful species on the planet. We have not only adapted to virtually every ecological niche on land, but we have also made the ecology adapt to us. We have even found ways to adapt to the most inhospitable of environments – space.

So, the way humans engage with change cannot be reduced to the simple claim that we are hard-wired to resist change. We also appear to be hard-wired to embrace change – changing ourselves and changing the world in which we live. Think of how much enthusiasm surrounds the idea of a mission to Mars or the concept of terraforming the red planet.

When we search for a model of change, we are seeking a way to represent the patterns in our brain structures and the typical human behaviours those structures produce. We are not really looking to model an abstract concept called ‘change’ – what we want is a model of how humans, at our best, engage with the process of change.

Back to Kubler-Ross

The Kubler-Ross model pre-supposes change is perceived as negative and threatening. This threat could come in the form of some unexpected and unwelcome news of a medical condition, the loss of a job or a significant other, negative financial news, or any other announcement that has significant implications for how you will move forward in life.

In other words, the model doesn’t really describe change: it describes a person’s emotional response to an unwanted and apparently negative change that has arisen on their horizon, and the process by which they come to terms with this new reality.

The wavy line on the graph represents a person’s emotional and cognitive response to news of a change they don’t want. Their initial state of relative well-being takes an immediate fall as they first hear the news, but soon rises as the person denies the reality or truth of the news. Surely this can’t be true? There must be a mistake here!

Once it become apparent that no mistake has been made, emotional well-being falls as shock and perhaps anger overwhelm the person. This may be followed by attempts at bargaining (with God? The universe?) as the person sinks deeper into depression.

Hopefully, with time, the person comes to terms with the new reality and begins to accept it. As emotional and cognitive well-being improves, and they make commitments about how they will proceed with life. Unfortunately, some people never accept the new reality and remain trapped in a state of depression.

This is a useful model that describes aspects of a common human experience – how we handle our fragility and mortality and the fact that bad things sometimes happen to good people. But there are several reasons why this model is not a good model of change.

First, change is not always negative. People win the lottery. They discover treasure. They meet someone and fall in love. They receive accolades and awards. There are many changes, expected or unexpected, that would not follow the pattern of the Kubler-Ross model. So, it cannot be a model we apply to all situations alike.

Second, not all change is unintended or unexpected. There are changes that just happen and there are changes we make happen. Intended changes usually don’t have the denial or shock elements that may be found in unintentional change.

Third, and most importantly, the Kubler-Ross model leaves too much out. It doesn’t provide a clear enough or detailed enough representation of how people typically respond to or engage with change. But what it does do well is it represents how people typically respond emotionally and behaviourally to a change they don’t want. That’s fine, but it’s only one part of a much bigger picture.

So, if a bigger picture is needed to describe typical human behaviour around change, where can we find such a model?

The Transtheoretical Model of Change

Change has always been part of human life so it may seem odd that it would be difficult to describe how that process happens. But it was difficult to describe. By the 1970’s there were over 250 different models of change in the academic literature. These models demonstrated a sense of confusion about the nature of the change process. This confusion led two American researchers, Prochaska and DiClemente, to put all existing models on the table and look for patterns. After years of work they produced a model that incorporates the best of existing models and most closely reflects the typical patterns in how humans engage with change.

They discovered 5 distinct phases, stages, or steps people engage in, and each step has its own purpose and its own set of behaviours. They also found that it’s normal for people to move forwards and backwards through these steps. Let’s look at these steps.

Step 1 – Not Even Thinking About Change

It may sound strange that the first step should be where people aren’t even thinking about change. But just because people aren’t consciously thinking about change doesn’t mean nothing’s happening. The person may have a vague feeling that something’s wrong.  The sub-conscious may be working and this might eventually emerge as a conscious need for change.

Furthermore, Step 1 doesn’t necessarily mean the person isn’t conscious of the need for change. They might be very aware of the need but may not think change is possible, or they might have tried to change before and failed.

And it is also very possible that people are in Step 1 because they hope things don’t change. We are all in Step 1 with things in our lives. We might love our home, love our jobs, love our car, or whatever. Sure, there may come a time when we think about moving, getting a new job, or replacing our car; but for now, we’re happy.

Step 2 – Thinking About Change

At some point we start thinking about changing things in our lives. We get tired or bored with how things are, and we want to change them. Or we become aware of things we want and good opportunities, and we start thinking about them. So, we make some investigations, talk to some people, perform a cost/benefit analysis. We think about how we feel about the change, whether it could work for us, and whether it’s worth the effort.

I think that Step 2 is where the Kubler-Ross model fits in. Sometimes we are thrust directly into Step 2. If we are thrust into a change that is perceived as threatening, the fight or flight mechanism will be activated. We may very well go into denial, become shocked or angry, and get depressed. We have a lot of processing to do. Sometimes, people get stuck in Step 2 and can’t find a way out.

But the way out of Step 2 is with a decision. It may be a commitment to do all we can to make change happen, or it may be a decision to go back to Step 1. If we decide to go ahead with change, we move into Step 3.

Step 3 – Deciding and Preparing

A firm decision for change marks the beginning of Step 3.

What do people do when they are in Step 3? They engage in preparation for change. There are many things to do and we need to work out how to approach them.

In every step of the change process there are risks and ways of getting stuck. One of the risks in Step 3 is that people get impatient. They skimp on preparation and want to get into the “real” change. But that behaviour only helps people fail.

A way of getting stuck in Step 3 is being a perfectionist. We do need to prepare thoroughly, but we don’t have to do it perfectly. We need to move on.

Step 4 – Making it Happen

This step is where we begin doing new things or doing old things in new ways. This is where we try things out, where we make mistakes, and where we learn the most. This is exciting, but there are many risks here. The chance of making mistakes is high, and we must deal with that. We may become frustrated, fearful, disappointed, or overjoyed. We may be tempted to give up if it gets hard, but if we continue and if we learn we eventually enter Step 5 of the process.

Step 5 – Keeping it Going

This is the final step of the change process. What are we doing here? We are persisting with change. The steep learning curve has flattened out and we are working towards the end, where we are used to the new behaviours. But there are still risks involved – getting sick of the struggle, memories of ‘the good old times’, and such like.

As mentioned earlier, it is normal to move forwards and backwards through this process. We make some progress, and then we regress. But, if we keep at it, eventually we win.

That’s what the Transtheoretical Model of Change describes – the pattern of how humans approach change. Or I should say; how they approach change when they do it right. So, what does it take to do it right?

Change Fitness

This process of change described by the Transtheoretical Model of Change may be typical of people, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. There are many challenges and many risks, and it’s not easy.

To be good at this process we need a special kind of fitness – change fitness. Change fitness is a psychological fitness for the change process and it’s in our minds. People who have lots of change fitness find the change process easier to handle than people who don’t have much fitness. That means change-fit people are more likely to succeed at change. They are more likely to be successful people because you can’t grow if you can’t change.

Conclusion

The Kubler-Ross model is a good model, but it is not a good change model. The Transtheoretical Model of Change is a much better description of what people do when they engage in change. To be good at the change process you need to understand how it works and you need change fitness.

If you would like to have more change fitness, or would like your leaders and employees to have more change fitness, we can offer you change fitness coaching. If you would like to become a change fitness coach, please reach out to me and express your interest.

Dr Steve Barlow