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The secret to change is Empathy

I participated in a Navigating Change workshop, led by my mentor coach and colleague, Barb Van Hare, and it really got my wheels spinning (thanks Barb!)!

I coach people a lot around change and transitions - mostly big life changes, or work-related changes. What struck me (again) today, is how PERSONAL change is.

We all have a relationship to change that’s happening (in our life, with our teams, in relationships, etc). We see it in a particular way, it affects us in a particular way, and we have certain feelings about it. And that same change can be seen differently by someone else, and affect them totally differently.

When I led change efforts in my corporate roles, it was often difficult for leaders to recognize and appreciate the personal transitions people experienced. I experienced it go completely south because leadership was focused on the thing - the change - rather than the PEOPLE it was affecting. We may have been changing one system, but each person it touched had his/her own relationship to it. And knowing that information - or ignoring it - helped us or prevented us from meeting them where THEY were and better prepare and support them.

Sometimes if we can pause and use empathy - really stand in someone else’s shoes - and reflect on or ask them what a change is like for them, it can uncover invaluable information.

You don't need to lead massive organizational transformations to heed this simple, yet profound, advice. This applies to us in our individual lives too. Maybe you've recently moved cities or schools. Maybe you've just gotten divorced. How has that change impacted the people you love in your life? How can you stand in your daughter's shoes and see what she's experiencing through this recent change? Or your husband's? Your mom's? Your best friend's?

Standing in someone else's shoes immediately changes your perspective, your lens through which you see something. And often it can soften the frustration you might feel around why a change feels so hard, or why can't your kids just get on board already?

What’s a change in your life or at work where you could use empathy and understand someone else’s experience? What is important about what you find out?

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