Elana Sonnenberg, the director of YellowTreeHub, shares her insight into the intricacies of personal and organisational change
Enabling businesses to realise their transformative strategies, unlocking the golden potential of their employees as they journey together toward the vision and the realisation of their full capabilities, is ultimately the intent of a change manager.
My personal journey of self-realisation has re-orientated how I approach change management. As I’ve developed my self-esteem and self-power through the process of individuation, so too my change management approach has changed.
For Jung, the life-long process of individuation represented a process through which ‘every living thing becomes what it was destined to become from the beginning’ (Stevens, 1981. Jung: A very short introduction). Individuation is an ‘inside out’ process that can be likened to alchemy, the process of creating gold within. The life-long process of development and growth – of integrating opposites to bring inner and outer harmony – is also referred to as self-realisation, a process of change and transformation. A real life Alchemist is often required to assist the individual with this intricate journey toward self-realisation. Life in itself teaches us over time, but to accelerate the learning and development, the combination of time, loving care and guidance of an esteemed healer, makes for a path that is less threatening and unsafe. Albeit not less daunting, dynamic, challenging, turbulent and awesome.
Change management is the strategic and coordinated approach to planning, deploying and enabling change in organisations. Change management as an approach focusses on people and their behaviours, how they relate to, accept and integrate change in their working environment into their behaviours and competence. A change manager creates strategies and approaches to structure, steer and contain the journey of change, creating the safety and care along the way of uncertainty and resistance. The change manager, like the alchemist, facilitates, navigates and steers skilfully and inspired, toward renewal and transformation.
“Managing change is about creating an environment where people feel safe and confident to take the next step.” – Elana Sonnenberg
The vision and purpose is central to giving a sense of orientation and direction, a core part of the change strategy. Ultimately, managing change is about creating an environment where people feel safe and confident to take the next step. Psychological safety is a pre-condition for trust to emerge, enabling organisational change from a place of hope and inspiration. Trust, in my experience, is the catalyst for speed and agility.
I make mention of the 10 key aspects of my personal change methodology:
Reduce cognitive dissonance, the resistance and doubt that people will undoubtedly experience by allowing for people’s beliefs and values to come into alignment with how they are required to behave. This process of congruence linked to an overall purpose allows for high probability change to emerge.
Connection with self and others
I am hyper alert to every stakeholder- and group’s needs and level of knowledge, including my own. I manage this connection by ensuring I allocate plenty of time to establish their awareness and needs, knowledge and support. I believe in empowered choices and follow informative strategies to manage the flow of information and movement toward the change.
Know my place
Being comfortable with managing change in an environment that is chaotic, uncertain and always moving is very central to my mindset. This awareness keeps me alert and connected, navigating the change with clarity and uncompromising focus.
Design from the first conversation
The change strategy is shaped from day one. I have a vision for the change from day one and I refine this plan from the very first conversation with every key stakeholder and role-player.
Have an agenda
Realising the vision has to be the end in mind for a change programme of any scope and size. As a manager of change, my agenda is that I am influencing and designing the road ahead. Having an agenda creates certainty and focus. It is within this containment that the plan can take shape and the behaviour change can take place…
Is a guardrail that allows for speed and agility during times of chaos. Through being alert and focussed on the uncertainty, the disorder or confusion in every present moment, the clear intention of the change strategy allows for identification of opportunities needed to move in the direction of the end in mind.
Remain open and flexible
Change, tweak or adjust plans in a flash if this is what is required to keep moving forward with high probability actions and behaviours.
Seek evidence to show movement toward the vision. The overall end-in-mind is at the heart of how I engage with change. We talk about the vision, the intent, the principles and the focus at every occasion, with every audience. The leaders that I work with are supported to talk about the vision in their own voice and they have to connect to the change personally.
Gauge the pace of change
As fast as possible (but as slowly as required!) governs the pace of change. Adjust the pace and space/time orientation based on the levels of acceptance, the motivation and the drive of the people involved relative to the systems and processes, in order to ultimately pace the speed of the change.
Allow for many, many questions… and document these.
Use these questions and answers to engage every audience. They give a steer on how the journey is moving forward and where stuckness may be experienced. The questions that keep coming up are the ones that will make the adaptation slow down. If the adaptation slows down, then the forward movement slows down and it has an impact on the energy of the change journey.
The alchemy of self-development (my ‘inside-out’ journey) has lead me to reconfigure and develop a new, deeper understanding and connection to the process of change, both at a personal and a corporate level. This journey has brought to light my role as change manager: that of strategy enabler, a corporate alchemist.
- Elana Sonnenberg is the director of YellowTreeHub and holds a Masters in Industrial Psychology with over 23 years of experience in the fields of communication, change management, organisation development and transformation.