Change never happens without lots of stress. While there are rules to follow on this change path, it is always rather messy. Keep in mind that when you and others at work are confronted with the positive change of growth, or the difficult change of downsizing, anxiety builds and must be handled.

Here is what to expect:

During this time, what was learned in leadership seminars goes down the tube. You will begin to observe that there are more physical ailments going around than usual and tempers are short.

Here's what to do:

  • Create a community of safety: Find two or three like-minded individuals willing to challenge the status quo by asking questions to help others look at what is causing the undue stress. These are open-ended questions that lead people to think about how they can resist the gossip and not join in the petty conversations of special interest cliques. Questions can include: What is your intention here? What do you think is the benefit of talking about this in a negative way? How can you help move the change process forward? What good results will come from staying with the frustration of change now?
  • Define boundaries: Help individuals remain clear on the goal that needs to be achieved and not focused on looking back at the past. Make sure there is a process for hearing all good suggestions for even better ways of moving forward (people who have a stake in the ground are more willing to participate fully). Listen without interrupting.
  • Enjoy the heights, but prepare for a fall: Do not sugar coat the process and make it seem easier than it is (this will only cause more stress and lack of trust). Schedule sessions where people can vent their upset without judgment, blame, or attack. Call out the naysayers and offer them an opportunity to become a champion of change. Prune where necessary (you may have to let someone go who is obstinate and blocks the way).
  • Never give up: Keep quotes of inspiration handy. Keep some fun cartoons or jokes available to laugh at the tough stuff. Take deep breaths, and then more deep breaths, and then breathe some more. Eat chocolate.

There is a balance between too much involvement and no emotional connection that can help you become a change agent. This is where telling clear truths to each other in short, honest sentences is critical. If people are given the time and open space to talk about what they need to "swing from one trapeze bar to the next," they will participate in the process and move past fear and anxiety into a zone of competence.

The future belongs to those who can create a climate of caring, cooperation, richness of meaning, and high quality of relationship. Learn to reach from one trapeze bar to another with grace, and then become a teacher of letting go of the old and participating fully in what is new.