#inspiring, inspiring, Leadership, mindfulness, Uncategorized

The Valley of Despair: what my class taught me about change

Photo: “Inspiring Bold” by Laura Kempf

I first learned about the Change Curve in Lean training. Lean events were about “change” – bringing people together to reinvent the process. This meant letting go of silos. Letting go of bias. And letting go of what employees were currently doing. Change, in short.

And “change” is hard. Very hard.

The Change Curve detailed by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross allowed people to understand it. When “change” occurs, emotions follow: shock, denial, anger, acceptance, commitment, enthusiasm, and engagement. Kübler-Ross studied people at the near stages of dying to witness these emotions. I called it the “Valley of Despair” because I watched every team go through the emotions. Their work was important to them and and changing it meant they had to change. Change what they had done for so long and change what they had built.

Valley of Despair. It sounds like a bad thing, but it is a powerful concept and that’s why I teach it. My students reflected this year that the Change Curve was the best lesson they learned. It was the first time a group of students picked this topic and we explored why:

There is power in knowing and embracing the Change Curve.
For some of them, just learning about the concept let them connect dots in their own lives. There was power in knowing the curve and taking a step back to reflect. Maybe that meant letting “things be”, because you were in the “valley of despair”. That’s okay. Recognize it and be kind to yourself and give yourself time to work through it.

The Change Curve applies to everything.
Yes. Yes, and yes. It is about anything that makes you pivot. Change happens and you go through the curve – maybe fast, maybe slow, but you go through it. I remember one Lean event and I thought, ” this is going so well.” And I became complacent for a second, but just that quick, a huge debate with emotions ensued. The Change Curve raised its ugly head. It can happen with work, with family, with your career or anything!

There is an exit and you can help!
And this is no more important than right now! As a Lean Champion, I owned making sure every employee made their way through the Change Curve. I couldn’t leave anyone behind or at the valley. The pandemic has been a huge change for everyone. Fear. Lockdown. Isolation. You can think of everyone bouncing around through all the emotions: shock, denial, anger, and needing a helping hand.

“So be the helping hand,” I told the class. That’s what leaders do. It’s bold and scary but its what our employees, our communities and networks need.

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