How to Navigate Change Without Frustration

       People are suffering in Puerto Rico this week and may be without power for months, reports are saying. Recovery will be hard, but it is a challenge that Puerto Rican Governor Rossello is determined to take on. "God is with us; we are stronger than any hurricane. Together we will rise again." So as we keep these many people in our thoughts and prayers this week, I thought it would be good for us to reflect on ourselves and the people we both lead and interact with.

Gov. Rossello's empowering words give me so much hope for Puerto Rico, and got me thinking: that statement reflects a pragmatist's approach to change.  Now, I don't know Gov. Rossello personally, but for the sake of argument let's say, based on this statement, that pragmatism is his change style.

"Scott, what on earth is a 'change style?'"


I'm so glad you asked. Your change style is the type of approach you naturally bend toward when leading others in the midst of great change. These are the three change styles based upon the  Change Style Assessment  that I often use with my clients. 

Pragmatists: These people approach change by exploring existing structures within a situation, and operate as mediators and catalystsfor change within that structure. Thy prefer change that best serves the function. Thy can often appear reasonable, practical and flexible but also noncommittal. Gov. Rossello is ready for Puerto Rico to "rise again," to become what she was before this storm, he knows his system has worked before, and is ready to use it. 

Conservers: These people accept existing structures around them, but unlike pragmatists, prefer to keep existing systems and structures in place. They would rather see gradual changes happen. While they might seem cautious and inflexible at times, they are not afraid to ask the hard questions. This might be someone such as President Calvin Coolidge. He is an often overlooked president because he was seen as too cautious and inflexible to enact any real change. However, his slow-moving approach allowed him to see the big picture when it came to things like the economy, and he became the only president to leave office with no national deficit. 

Originators: These people are original thinkers who will challenge existing structures from the very beginning. They actually enjoy risk and uncertainty, quick and radical change. Sometimes they can come off as unorganized and undisciplined. An example of an originator would be Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who challenged the broken social structure and took risky steps that led to radical, beautiful change. 

What is the value of Knowing your Change Style?

Who among us is not in the middle of some kind of change? Change is all around us. Here are some that I have noticed this last week just in my little corner of the world:

  • My grocery store changed where my favorite frozen yogurt treat is found in the freezer case. Seems like every time I go into the grocery, something has moved.
  • My favorite brand of frozen protein waffles changed their packaging and I almost couldn’t find them on the shelf.
  • My workout routine is changing more and more as my wife and I prepare for our very first back to back half-marathons. One on October 14 the other on Oct 21!
  • I have started to do more online teaching, beginning with some of the assessments we certify leaders and coaches to use in their organizations and practices.

Since things in both our personal and professional lives are constantly changing, I think it is good for us to understand how we approach change. I tend to be more of an originator and get a lot of satisfaction out of rearranging things to see if I can make them better. However, I also know that if I am not aware of a change, I can easily get frustrated, like I was when I couldn’t find my frozen waffles because the package is different.

Knowing about yourself or your clients and how they approach change can be very valuable. Think about a conserver style leader who is asked to lead a new systems initiative in their organization. If the leader is aware of their change style, then they can better manage the processes. Left unaware, frustration and doubt can hold the best leaders frozen in their tracks.

What is your change style?

Take this fun quiz below to get an idea of which style might be yours. If you are coaching someone through change, we have an assessment tool available for you to use to find our their change style that will allow you to help them grow in their approach to change.