What is Your Change Style?

Stop and think for a minute. No really, slow down…take a deep breath...and think for an entire minute on this question:

As a leader, what is the single most important thing you are trying to change in your organization?

Okay. Do you have that ONE thing in mind? Now write it down.

In my work as an organizational consultant and executive coach I often work with leaders who have several things they are trying to change at the same time. They are trying to make their organization more efficient, more focused, to think in a new or different way.

It would be fairly easy to lead if you only had to make one change at a time, and you could do this in a linear and synchronous fashion. No one I know in leadership has this luxury. Change is all around you, coming at you from every side:

  • Budgets change
  • People change
  • Expectations change
  • Visions change
  • Customers change
  • Products change
  • Regulations change
  • Bosses’ minds change

And often all these types of change happen at the same time. Sometimes you are in complete control of these changes, and other times you feel like you are in more of a reactionary position.

No matter the type or the position you find yourself in, as a leader one thing is clear: Part of your calling is change! No one these days is interested in people who can lead the status quo.

Style Preferences

One of the things I have been thinking more about over the past several months is not necessarily the types of changes or even my level of control, but more so about how my team members and customers approach change. In our organization we have a lot of change going on:

  • We have added 2 new team members.
  • We are launching a new website the first week of April
  • We have taken on more organizational consulting projects (mostly team culture work)
  • We have added a new Stress Management course to our teaching repertoire.
  • We are doing executive coaching in new industries and with new clients.

Change is everywhere!

But I have been trying to focus less on the “what” that is changing and more on the “how” each person on my team responds to change.

Let’s face it. Some of you are change junkies. Change gives your brains a huge dopamine rush and you get an overwhelmingly positive feeling when things are changing. Some of you like to move so fast that you end up getting several steps ahead of everyone else and you are forced to slow down or lose others completely. Others of you realize change is eminent, but have more of a slow-and-steady-wins-the-race-approach.

Experts on change agree that while there is no “one-style-fits-all," each of us has an approach or style that we are more comfortable with when it comes to change.

Changes Style Indicator

A new tool that I have been using to better understand the change styles of the folks on my team is the Change Style Indicator. This is a simple and easy-to-use assessment that gives people a glimpse into their style preferences when they are faced with change. The assessment takes less than 10 minutes to complete, then you are scored on a change style continuum of three styles that represent distinct approaches when responding to change. The continuum ranges from Conserver Style to an Originator Style, with a Pragmatists Style occupying the middle range of the continuum.

I have found that working with my team in light of this assessment has really helped us to manage all the change we are facing in a more productive way. While this tool does not give any indication of whether or not we are good at change, or even if our styles are effective for the type of changes we are facing, what it does for me as a leader is:

  • Allows me to approach everyone on my team as an individual in the ways THEY like to approach change.
  • Get a much better feel for the underlying emotion and anxieties associated with the change.
  • Better understand some of the natural conflicts that arise between team members based on the changes they are facing.
  • Get better at responding, helping to enhance collaboration and even encourage the team to innovate.

But hey, don’t just take my word for it. I asked Michelle, who is new to my team, to answer a few questions on her perspective on the Change Style Indicator.

Michelle, how easy was this assessment to take and how long did it take you to complete it? The Change Style Indicator assessment was simple to take and only took me about 15 minutes, including the time to read the instructions. The questions are straightforward and ask you for the response that immediately comes to mind. There are no "right" or "wrong" answers, you are just asked to be candid in your responses.

What is one thing that you learned about yourself from the assessment that you didn’t already know? I have utilized several personality and communication style assessments, but I've never taken one directly related to dealing with change. I enjoyed reading the detailed results report, which indicated I am a "Pragmatist" with a "Conserver" orientation. This means that I prefer the kind of change that happens for practical reasons, and I want to make sure any change is a group effort, keeping in mind what is best for the team.

How do you see using this assessment as you Influence others on our team? The results report provided a useful outline of my strengths and weaknesses when dealing with change. This is a helpful for my work in the future as it gives me tools to explain to other team members how I can best contribute to change within our organization. If everyone on my team utilizes the Change Style Indicator, it can help us when planning our work so the assignments and expectations are tailored to suit the strengths and weaknesses of each team member.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to be more influential as a leader in their organization? Self-awareness is an essential skill for any leader. When working with a team, you not only have to understand yourself, but also be able to adapt your style when necessary to get the best results with your group. The Change Style Indicator is a useful key to self-awareness in managing organizational change.

Thanks, Michelle! As you can see, simple tools like this can be quite effective in helping us as leaders to assess our teams and what the best approaches might be to maximize our change-opportunities.


I want you to go back to that change that you wrote down initially. Now think about all the people on your team who are affected by that change. What words would you use to describe the way they approach changes. I think really taking some time and assessing how people respond to change can make all the difference in how effective we are, as leaders, in making change happen.

If you want to know more about how you can become certified in this simple instrument to use with your team send me an email at info@drscottlivigston.com and we will get some information your way.