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08 Jan '13

What you need to know when you are going to suggest major change

Posted by T.J. Addington in change, organizational change

Before a whitewater-rafting trip, a good guide is going to sit everyone down in the calm water and tell them what to expect. The reason is simple: knowing what is in store lowers the anxiety level. At least we say to ourselves in the middle of the whitewater, our guide told us that it would be this way.

Here are some realities of negotiating change:

Most likely you will face resistance. This is normal. Don't be anxious or discouraged when your great ideas face resistance; that is simply how many people are wired.

A few loud voices will often seek to shut down the change process. This is normal too. Don't allow their voices to keep you from doing what you need to do, even if they make threats. An exception to this would be individuals who you know have great wisdom and a history of being supportive (not squeaky wheels) and who have significant 'coinage' with you and others. Not everyone's voice carries the same weight.

Some people may threaten to leave to leave your church or organization. This is normal. The more intentional you are as leaders, the more resistance you will encounter from a few because you are messing with the status quo. It is not unusual for some people to leave a church or organization when key directional decisions are made. To cave into their threats is to compromise the kingdom impact of your ministry because of a few loud voices. Don't cave!

You may have leaders who suggest that you revoke the suggested changes, even though they agreed with the need before pushback occurred. This is normal, although unfortunate. True leaders don't retreat from something they believe to be right, just because their proposed change causes waves. Whitewater is all about waves. Change is about waves. Leaders who cannot live with waves are probably in the wrong place.

The greater the change, the more uncomfortable you may feel. This is normal. In the middle of the whitewater it is hard to think calmly. Change produces anxiety in people, which will cause you anxiety. Stay the course, keep your anxiety low and work the process.

You will get wet. This is normal. when the boat is bucking, water comes over the sides. When equilibrium is upset, people say things that are sinful and take shots at those who caused the waves. Respond in ways that lower the tension and stay the course. If you know you'll get wet going in, you won't feel as uncomfortable when it happens.

Did you see the theme here? This is normal. so often in the midst of change, when we are getting wet and are surrounded by whitewater, we question our decisions: We are tempted to retreat; and we lose our nerve, thinking that we must have really screwed up to be where we are No! All of this is normal. Expect it and negotiate it with wisdom, patience and low anxiety.