The ABCs of Change Management

Michelle Bostian (November 2020)

Change. The word evokes feelings of anticipation, excitement and even fear. It is inevitable and it is imminent. How do we best prepare for it? How do we equip our teams to navigate it with as much success as possible?

To keep it simple, and impactful at the same time, focus on developing the psychological ABC’s. Research shows we humans rely on feelings of autonomy, belonging, and competence in order to thrive. Showing up as our best selves can be challenging for some in the middle of change. Equip your leaders through fostering an environment that promotes motivation.

The research in Self Determination Theory of Edward Deci and Rich Ryan confirms the universal and innate needs for humans to experience of feelings of autonomy, belonging, and competence. Deci and Ryan argue that in order to grow, reach potential, and experience the internal motivation to do so, we must live these three as “felt experiences” in our environment.

A is for autonomy: freedom of choice and having a voice. We need to perceive we have choice in what we do if we are to be invested in the success of the doing. Give your team an opportunity to share their voices. Demonstrate their voices are valued through capturing their feedback and sharing your response to how that feedback influenced decisions. Consider what parts of the change you need to determine and which are determined outside of your control and talk about what elements are available for feedback.

B is for belonging: feeling an integral part of a community. Be mindful not to move so fast that you lose sight of belonging. Every interaction is an opportunity to build a relationship. Take time to show genuine interest. Remember something personal. Make eye contact and smile. Make connections about each team member’s value to the rest of the group. When we feel deeply cared about, we are more likely to follow the direction of those leading us.

C is for competence: having the confidence that we possess the skills to accomplish an assignment. Provide opportunities for your team to learn the skills they need. Be mindful to differentiate in order to scaffold to meet them where they are. One good example of this lies in the big shift we have all made to leveraging technology more than ever before in our work, regardless of what we do. To keep motivation engaged, we need things to be challenging but not defeating. We need to feel successful, to have a sense of self efficacy that our efforts are worth the result.

When these three core psychological needs are met, you will see those you lead engaging in the work and adjusting to the change because they want to, not because they are fearing a consequence or seeking a reward. When our teams are working to their fullest potential sourced from internal motivation, we have the most powerful outcomes.

Now here is the challenge work. The ABC’s are simple indeed. A for autonomy, B for Belonging, and C for competence. We get it. What we sometimes forget, or forget to pay attention to, is that each of us has different degrees of desire or psychological need for these elements. Simply put, some of us have a greater need for autonomy, others are always seeking a greater sense of connection, and some just want to feel as if they have some control over the impact of their efforts. Pay attention to what you need right now as we navigate change. Assess where your team, colleagues, and leaders are on the continuum. Ask them about their feelings of autonomy. Ask if they feel deeply connected to and valued by their teammates. Inquire about their sense of competence at work. Listen deeply and consider what can you do to support them. One thing that’s not changing, for sure, is our human need for the experience of autonomy, belonging and competence.

Categories: Uncategorized