Choosing Your Change Style

  • Three Change Styles                                                                                                                                                                                    How do you feel about change?Many executives and CEOs believe they are masters of change. Yet they find that their employees are not.”CEOs have instant amnesia when it comes to change,” says Vistage speaker Joni Daniels. “They forget that they had to go through a process to accept the change they are now expecting others to make instantly.””Also, there’s a difference between changes you choose and changes that choose you,” she says. “Choosing you” might be a lost account, a family crisis or a major personal illness.In the face of any kind of change, people demonstrate one of three change styles. They may act like:
  • Victims, to whom change is bad and the outcome is expected to be negative;
  • Survivors, whose ‘adapt or die’ approach finds them adapting, or
  • Navigators, who thrive on change.
    Executives and CEOs often assume that they are navigators. In reality, they — like everyone else — sometimes take on each of these change styles, depending upon the circumstances. Eighty percent of the time, they prefer one change style. Sometimes, they all feel victimized by a change.                                                                                               Taking Charge of Your Reaction to Change “We are, for some reason, inherently surprised when something changes,” says Daniels. “Yet we have a lifetime of proof that change happens and it usually works out well.”The recent economic downturn has been an ongoing exercise in how much change can happen. Some executives thought they could wait it out when they saw warning signs. Others approached it proactively, and didn’t wait for three bad quarters to confirm their worst fears.
  • “Change can bring so many opportunities, but if your eyes are closed to them you won’t see them. Somebody else will,” she says.To embrace change at the highest, “thriving” level for changes that unexpectedly come to you, answer these questions:
  • What was your first reaction to the news of this change? (If you embraced it, you’re thriving already!)
  • If your reaction was pessimistic or very negative, why?
  • Can you reframe some of the negatives into potential positives (opportunities)?
  • How much energy do you have right now? If you are at a low ebb, what can you do to boost your personal and professional energy at this time?
  • How can you benefit from going through the experience of this change? What will you gain?Evaluating change this way can help you put it into perspective and realize that while you can’t control change, you can become empowered in how you react to it.                                                                                                                                                  Becoming a ‘Navigator of Change’ A navigator moves through change with the greatest of ease.Executives can become navigators by managing themselves when a threatening change confronts them.”If there’s an illness in your family, you can say, ‘woe is me’ and be angry about it. Or you can look at it as an opportunity to help, do research, explore homeopathic remedies and strengthen relationships,” she says.The faster that people can move through any anger about a change, the better. Frustration and anger can be a positive if it propels executives to action — as long as the action is not “shooting from the hip.”


  • Approach the change as a challenge.
  • Determine what they can control.
  • Accept what they can’t control.
  • Network to get help they need.
  • Evaluate the best course of action, and take it.
    “Sometimes you have to ‘fake it until you make it,'” says Daniels, recalling her own experience when she lost a job in 1988. “I went on lots of interviews, but it was tough. Sometimes I pretended it was like a cocktail party to help me through.”

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