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The Change Curve; Riding the Rollercoaster of Change

Imagine you’re at Alton Towers. You’ve boarded The Smiler, and, as you’re pulled up the vertical structure, your back pressed firmly against the seat on which you are now laying, you feel mounting pressure as the mechanical structure elevates you toward the first peak.

Even though you know it’s coming, a bit like lockdown, you brace yourself, and then wham, the shock floods through you as you tip over the curve point and the coaster gathers speed. Your heart moves from your chest to your mouth. You close your eyes, hold your breath and hope it’s over soon.

Image of a rollercoaster at a theme park

Thanks for indulging the somewhat tenuous metaphor above, which serves as a segue to today’s topic; The Change Curve - a curve that depicts the stages people move through as they experience significant change.

The Elisabeth Kűbler-Ross Change Curve

The Elisabeth Kűbler-Ross Change Curve

Rather than retell each stage of the change curve in this post, we have opted to share some practical ideas to support leaders in leading themselves and others through change. 

It Always Starts With You

In Stephen Covey’s famous book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he talks about putting First Things First. However, many leaders are still in the Urgent/Important crisis management area of prioritisation, which is completely understandable. Perhaps they need a gentle nudge to allow themselves a pause, grab a cuppa, paper and pen and give themselves five minutes.

If we are speaking to you, as a leader, ask yourself these questions;

  • Where am I on the change curve?

  • If I were a fly on the wall watching myself today/this week, how would I summarise myself in a sentence?

  • Which three things 'top me up'? Am I getting enough of those right now?

  • To make tomorrow a great day, what do I need to do?

Leading Others

By now, you’ll have your initial plans in place, with remote working (where possible), furloughed employees, etc. You’ll have checked in on your teams and the teams they lead, addressed their health and well-being, their families and offered support as appropriate.

It’s easy to think that we are now all in the same place and have started to settle into a new way of working. For some, that may be spot on. But great leaders are using their skills to help guide and coach their delegated leadership and management teams to support their people through the various stages of the change curve.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if everyone worked through the curve at the same speed and had the same needs? Sadly, a quick look on LinkedIn shows that people are in different places:

  • enjoying the fun of being home with the family

  • excited and positive that the world is coming together

  • feel desperate about a loved one who is in intensive care

  • worry about their colleagues 

  • are concerned about their financial security

Here is where the best leaders will be shining;

  • Leading with empathy and connection

  • Encouraging people to be honest about how they are experiencing change at any time

  • Showing the change curve, citing examples from history and showing that there is a future

  • They will authentically be sharing their own journey through the curve

  • They will be signposting a future and will be clear on how each stage is being processed

The Leader’s Role in the Change Curve

A leader has a key role to play in each stage of the change curve with the people that they lead. 

The Leader’s Role in the Change Curve

Do You Work in Leading People?

You’ll likely already have your own leadership coaching providers set up, and they will be a great support at this time, so pick up the phone and give them a call.

If you’re not set up, give us a call and give your leaders the best support you can, a safe space to explore how they lead through these unprecedented times. 

Our service always includes free-of-charge chemistry coaching sessions to ensure your people are appropriately matched for success.

Call us on our Freephone number 03450 950 480 or email to discuss your leadership coaching. 


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