Did you know that approximately 70% of organizational
change initiatives fail? Why is that?
According to my own work on
five continents and a cursory review of the literature, the main reason
organizational change initiatives fail is because they do not adequately address the people side of change.
What do I mean by the people side of
People are at the heart of
our organizations. They include everyone from the CEO, Senior Management Team,
Middle Managers, Team Leaders and Employees. They also include key stakeholders.
How do you address the people side of
CEO and Senior Management Team –The key ingredient here is for CEOs and their Senior
Management teams to be clear on why they
are initiating a change – be it a culture change, reorganization,
leadership change, new strategic plan … AND communicate that “why” clearly down through all layers of an
organization. That said it is not enough
to communicate the change, it is important for others in the organization
to take ownership of the change (more
about that later).
Another important aspect is
that a CEO and their Senior Management Team understand change and how they typically respond to it. Some key
questions to think about are: On a scale from 1 to 10, how do you typically
respond to change? One being “It scares
me to death” and 10 being “I thrive
on it”. My experience has been that most leaders rate themselves from 8 to
10. They tend to thrive on change. However, there may be others on their teams
who are 4s or 5s. If so, it is important to be aware of that, open up the
conversation, and discuss how those folks may be supported throughout the
When a CEO is open about
change, acknowledges that many of us fear change, provides opportunities for
their people to learn how to embrace change versus resist it and models
this behavior for others, it improves the chances of success of an
organizational change initiative.
How do you embrace versus resist change?
Based on more than 25 years of
consulting and coaching with individuals and organizations on 5 continents, I’ve designed a 5-step process called “The Art of
Change Framework” to support leaders and their organizations to embrace change.
It is underpinned by the belief that “embracing
change is a creative process that opens us up to new possibilities”. It is
also supported by evidence from neuroscience, eastern psychology and
This process is best implemented on the “front end” of an organizational change
initiative and lays the foundation for that initiative. It works best in an
experiential workshop(s) format where leaders and their teams have the
opportunity to learn about change together, explore how they respond to change
and why, and receive tools to support them as they move into a change process.
The Value Add? When people learn about change and how they respond to
it, that not only supports their engagement, motivation, productivity and
positivity in the workplace, it also improves their personal lives.
I’ve included an excerpt from
“The Art of Change Framework: A Guide to Personal and Organizational Change”
below to illustrate the differential impacts between embracing versus resisting
change (full document available at https://pamela-thompson.com/).
What happens in Ourselves, Our Relationships and Our Workplaces when We
Resist Change versus Embrace it?
|We view change as a threat ||We view change as an |
opportunity to learn and grow and as a creative process that opens us up to new
Low in energy
The increased stress over time
negatively impacts our health; can
lead to chronic illness and
negatively affect our career paths
Over time we are more relaxed,
more flexible and open to creative
ideas. Our health may be positively impacted as we feel supported by
those around us and that we are
contributing to something greater than ourselves; may positively
impact our career paths
|In our interactions with others we:|
Are not totally present
May be argumentative
|In our interactions with others we:|
Seek to understand and support
We feel alone,
victimized and that others don’t
Characterized by increased understanding, creativity and compassion
We feel part of something and
|Increased conflict – |
“us” versus “them”
Increased illness and absenteeism
Negative impact on the bottom line
collaboration and synergy
Creativity and Innovation
Positive impact on the bottom line
As leaders of teams,
organizations or community groups, it is essential that you understand change
and how you respond to it and also understand your team members and how they
typically respond to change. By engaging in facilitated experiential workshops
on the Art of Change, the
understanding among team members will increase and resistance toward a change
process, be it a reorganization, new leadership, new project or new strategic
plan, will decrease.
Providing Opportunities for people from various layers of the organization to input into the change process such as answering the question: How will the change affect me? And How can we as a team best support and positively contribute to the change initiative? AND the leadership taking those responses into consideration, is important. This includes input from key stakeholders which may be obtained through telephone interviews, focus groups, facilitated workshops … . Providing opportunities for people to input into the change process not only may provide interesting suggestions and perspectives, it will also build ownership for the change. People by nature, want to be respected, valued and feel like they belong; and enabling them to input into a change process supports these basic needs.
My experience has been that
when we provide the opportunity for people at various levels to input into a
change process, they often contribute ideas and suggestions that senior
management is not aware of/cannot see from their organizational vantage point.
In a recent episode of “The Art of Change” radio talk show, my guest, Shelley Gilberg, partner in PricewaterhouseCoopers, and experienced organizational change expert, noted that one reason many change initiatives fail is because “we cut off support too early to sustain change initiatives” – For more details check out: https://www.spreaker.com/user/bbm_global_network/the-art-of-change-show-9. Providing people at various layers of the organization the opportunity to receive training and support and instituting “check points” along the way for people to identify how they feel and why is important. This is also supported by Brene Brown’s interviews with a large sample of leaders from both public and private sector organizations.
There is strong evidence that
the reason why many organizational change initiatives fail is because they do
not adequately address the people side of change. When we provide opportunities
for people from various layers of an organization, as well as key stakeholders
to input into a change process, when the CEO and Senior Management Team are
clear on why they are initiating a new change and communicate that effectively
throughout an organization and model positive change behaviors, and when leaders
and their teams from various levels in an organization are provided the
opportunity in experiential workshops to learn about change and explore how
they respond to it, the chances of success of an organizational change
Learning and implementing the
5-step Art of Change Framework helps
you as a leader understand how you respond to change and is a tool to support
you and your team(s) to embrace it. In these challenging and uncertain times,
now more than ever, we need proven processes to support individuals and leaders
in communities, governments and organizations to create successful change
initiatives and through those efforts make a positive difference in the world.
In a recent episode of “The Art of Change” radio show that
focused on “The Entrepreneurial Journey” – http://boldbravemedia.com/shows/the-art-of-change/
– my guest, serial entrepreneur and Founder of the Westshore Women’s Business
Network, Deb Alcadinho, talked about grieving in relation to shutting down a
business; and she recalled one business in particular that was challenging to let
go of. On reflection, it struck me that in business we don’t usually talk about
and perhaps we need to.
In the third step of the Art of Change Framework, “letting go” is the work associated with the ending phase of a change or transition. According to organizational theorist William Bridge’s work, when we make a change it is important to do the internal psychological work, which he defines as the “transition”, in order to readjust and reorient ourselves to our new external reality. How often do we do this in life let alone in business?
I’ve launched four businesses since the early 1990s and realize that I didn’t take time to grieve any of them. When I no longer felt “juiced” by what I was doing, a new opportunity would present itself or I would think “What do I really want to do now?” and then think of who might be someone in that space to approach. Then, I would be off and running to the next project, or iteration of my business. I really didn’t take time between those changes to get in touch with my feelings or to process my emotions. So I’ve started on a journey to do that, and am openly sharing with you insights gleaned along my journey.
At this point in my life I am choosing to only do things that are fun and bring me joy. I’m noticing with my new “Art of Change” radio talk show that I’m energized, excited and having fun. I appreciate having a new focus in business and it aligns with my core values of contribution, adventure, connection and love of learning.
I’m also consciously filtering opportunities that come my
way through a new lens; that of will it
bring me joy and is it in alignment with my core values? Do I have space in my
life for this based on what else I’ve committed to?
I love the feeling of spaciousness I’m creating. I
consciously spend time in nature and notice when my body needs a “nature hit”.
I look forward to my bi-weekly Women’s Circle and include philanthropic
opportunities and a Women’s Business group in my schedule. I make time, more
and more, for friends, and continue to cherish special moments with my partner
and my family.
I feel like my priorities are shifting and with that a sense of no longer wanting to strive (which I thought I let go of years ago), but rather to thrive. To me that means awakening each day with a smile on my face and a song in my heart; feeling strong, healthy and flexible in body, mind and spirit; learning and growing through reading and courses; creating the program for my radio show; beginning to write a memoir; consciously tapping into and asking my heart and gut: What do I really want to do now? What will fill me up?
I consciously choose to let go of worrying about things I
cannot control and instead choose to focus on what I am grateful for and what I
In summary, how can we grieve in business? Here are a few helpful
- Take the time to tap into and express your feelings if you are shutting down a business or changing direction. Ask yourself – How do I feel about this? Relieved? Sad? Lighter? It’s helpful to journal about how you feel. If you have friends, colleagues or a loving partner, you may find it helpful to share your thoughts and emotions with them.
- Ask yourself: What is my experience with endings? Do you find them difficult? Do they cause you pain OR do you typically “Just get on with it” and not take the time to feel or process those emotions?
and acknowledge your accomplishments. This can include spending time
journaling about what they are, inviting clients and staff (and/or contractors)
to a party to celebrate the end of that business and how everyone has
contributed to it. It can be a small gathering of friends and colleagues who
respect and honor you; where they can share how much they value you, how you
supported them and you can also share your gratitude for them and how they
contributed to your business success.
on and write down the lessons learned from that business (i.e. what worked
well, what didn’t and then build on your strengths and learn from/shore up your
weaknesses moving forward).
a list of what you are choosing to let go of and consciously release those
emotions and beliefs from your body.
- Remember that grieving takes time. Give yourself that time to feel, heal and to rest.
regular time in nature. Being among trees reduces your heart rate, reduces
your blood pressure and increases the number of natural killer cells your body
produces (i.e. strengthens your immune system).
- Practice mindfulness (e.g. body scanning, mindfulness walking meditation, listen to guided meditations). These practices get you get “out of your head” and “into your body”.
I’d love to hear from
you about how you’ve grieved past businesses. Does this idea resonate with you?
I welcome your comments and suggestions below.
 “Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior.” (source: https://www.griefrecoverymethod.com/blog/2013/06/best-grief-definition-you-will-find)
 For more on “The Art of Change Framework” refer to: https://pamela-thompson.com/fear-change-overcome/
While vacationing in Mexico a
few months ago, I was lazing by the pool and decided to do some journaling. I
asked myself the question: What do I
really want in my life? Here are some of the answers that came to me:
- I want a new
- I want to
- I enjoy
- I want to
make a positive difference in the world
- I would like
someone else to promote me.
Within several weeks of
returning home, I received a phone call from someone from an advertising and
promotional company out of New York specializing in internet radio broadcasting.
They have a global audience that surpasses 50 million listeners. The representative
said that his analytics department had found me on the web and they felt that
there was a niche that I could fill based on my background and experience. We
set up a time for him to give me the details. He said that the niche included
women entrepreneurs, leaders, women in business, high achieving women, and
those aspiring to be leaders and entrepreneurs.
I was then offered the opportunity to host my own weekly internet radio talk show. It was to be my show, my own intellectual property that would stream live on Bold Brave Media’s global network and Tunein Radio to start and would be archived on http://boldbravemedia.com/about-us/.
I was excited about the
possibilities so I signed a contract and embarked on a new adventure as an
internet radio talk show host! It’s been fun the last couple of months learning
about radio and being trained by the Head of Production, an amazing guy with 40
years of experience in the business. My home office now is a studio with a huge
microphone on a moveable arm, and some BIG headphones!
I’m excited to share that
“The Art of Change” radio show launches
June 5, 2019 and will be live weekly
on Wednesdays from 3 to 4 pm Pacific/6 to 7 pm Eastern. The first show will
lay the foundation for future shows and will focus on change, the impacts of
resisting versus embracing it, and will walk you through a practical process
and strategies to embrace change. In future shows, I will be interviewing
inspiring women leaders and changemakers from around the globe and asking them
questions about key changes they’ve made in their lives, key challenges faced and
their lessons learned. You will have the
opportunity to phone in to a 1-800# and ask questions.
The intention for the show is
to create an informative, safe and supportive space for women to tune in to
weekly and phone in (if they feel comfortable doing so) and get their questions
answered about change, leadership, entrepreneurship, creating a social movement
I extend an invitation for you to listen to my first show on June 5th starting at 3 pm Pacific/6 pm Eastern and weekly thereafter at the same time. To access the show you can either download the Tuneinradio app on your phone (visit http://ww1.tuneinradio.com/ ) and listen there going to bbmglobalnetwork and then to the name of the show “The Art of Change”. You may also go directly to http://boldbravemedia.com/ at the scheduled time and click on the show on channel 100. If you’re unable to listen live, you may listen later or download the show from the boldbravemedia site under my name.
I’m excited to have you join me on this new adventure
and welcome your thoughts and suggestions of topics to cover, questions you’d
like answered and potential inspiring women leaders and changemakers to
interview. Please share your comments and suggestions below or email me.
It’s Pamela Thompson signing
off from “The Art of Change” radio show broadcasting live from bbmglobal
network and Tunein radio!
loss; change is the gaining of something new.”
Last night I attended the screening of a documentary film
“Metamorphosis” by Canadian film makers Nova Ami and Velcrow Ripper.
It was an informative, energizing and beautiful experience.
The topic was Climate Change. Many films on this theme are all “gloom and
doom”. In contrast, this film reminded me of the resilience and beauty of
nature and of the importance of slowing down. It gave me hope and inspiration
that we do have a “window of time” to make a real difference in the health of
We had an opportunity to meet and hear briefly from the film
makers about their purpose in making the film before it was shown.
The Documentary: Real
Through the use of dramatic cinematography a number of real
life examples of the impacts of climate change were shared through the eyes of
people who are/were directly affected. This included:
- The drought in Southern California characterized by swaths of cracked and desolate land, which due to the diversion of natural aquifers for the irrigation of large cities such as Los Angeles, has changed green, thriving and water abundant areas, to desert. Data was shared including the fact that a typical lawn in Southern California requires 4 feet of water per year to stay healthy and alive and rainfall typically is 13 inches per year. The rest is made up for by irrigation.
- More frequent and powerful typhoons in the Philippines and Caribbean resulting in loss of life, the high loss of homes (needing to be rebuilt) and the uprooting of ancient trees.
- Higher water levels and more frequent flooding in Venice
- Devastating fires due to draught. The experience of driving through a burning forest to reach loved ones. One family’s experience of losing their home and how their entire town was decimated.
The Documentary: Innovative
A number of innovative solutions were shared that are
currently being implemented in various parts of the world. They included:
- Garden Pools – and the “army” of folks trained to convert drained swimming pools into gardens and ecosystems which are similar to what exists in nature; symbiotic relationships where one organism is dependent on another; e.g. ducks, fish (fertilizer), water from rain and dew, facilitating the growing of a variety of fruits and vegetables.
- Grid “Collective” – installing solar panels on roofs of homes in low income communities and training others to do this
- Sculptured Human Art – facilitating the growth of new coral reefs
- Garbage Art – to increase awareness of how much garbage we create as humans and using it to construct colorful and fun art pieces
- Earthships – using used tires, cans, bottles, solar panels as well as rain water capture to create self-sustaining homes that are “off the grid” 
Who was there and Why was it helpful?
After the screening, the film makers were joined at the
front of the room by an academic, and a local municipal councillor who is
advocating for “green” solutions, as well as a facilitator. The “floor” was
open for us all to share how the film impacted us, to ask questions and share
It was interesting to hear the different perspectives of the
panelists and the audience. A safe environment was created that enabled people
to share what they liked about the film, what they might have liked more of,
and how it impacted them. There was also a discussion of change and loss and
how it is important to grieve the losses associated with climate change, as
well as other environmental and life changes.
As the documentary touched on the importance of us as
members of communities sharing our gifts and talents to create innovative
solutions, a couple of special things happened that surprised me. One woman
asked for permission and sang a beautiful song about Mother Earth. Another
openly shared her painful, yet valuable learning experience of moving through
grief related to what we as humans have done to the planet, and how the
experience affected her mind and body; and the realization that this is part of
the process of change.
Lessons about change
that I took away from the film
- The importance of slowing down and being
grateful for the beautiful world we have.
- Reminded me that many of us are stuck in
“psychic numbness”; on a constant treadmill of making money, so we can pay our
bills, buy bigger and bigger homes and cars and consume more and more “stuff”.
Being on this “hamster wheel” prevents us from reflecting on our beliefs and
behaviors, experiencing and moving through the fear, anxiety and uncertainty of
change, letting go of beliefs and behaviors that are no longer serving us and
moving toward creative solutions.
- The strength and resilience of the monarch
butterfly; how going through different phases from caterpillar, to chrysalis,
to beautiful butterfly and the 3000 or so miles each one flies each year, is
remarkable. The butterfly reminds us that change is normal and can lead to
increased strength, resilience and beauty.
- The human imagination and how creative we can be
to come up with solutions when we put our hearts and minds together toward a
- The importance of acknowledging that we all have
gifts and talents to share; uncovering and sharing those gifts to make a
- The need to forgive ourselves and others for the
harm we have done to our planet.
- The value of holding community conversations
around topics and engaging people from diverse backgrounds, cultures and
experiences to generate innovative solutions to “pressing” challenges.
- The power of the collective and community to support
Reflecting on last night’s experience and what I learned from the documentary, I began thinking about the importance of grieving all changes. I started thinking about how we might integrate video and film effectively into organizational change processes and to support social movements and societal changes we need in order to create a healthier world for us all. What are your thoughts?
I’d love to hear from
you. Have you used film and video to support change processes you’ve been a
part of? If so, where and how and what did you learn? I invite you to share
your comments below.
 View trailer here: https://vimeo.com/248189180
-  Symbiotic relationships are a special type of interaction between species. Sometimes beneficial, sometimes harmful, these relationships are essential to many organisms and ecosystems, and they provide a balance that can only be achieved by working together.” (Source: https://study.com/academy/lesson/symbiotic-relationship-definition-examples-quiz.html)
description: “An Earthship
is a brand of passive solar earth
shelter that is made of both natural and upcycled
materials such as earth-packed tires, pioneered by architect Michael Reynolds.
An Earthship addresses six principles or
- Thermo-solar heating and cooling
- solar and wind electricity
- self-contained sewage treatment
- building with natural and recycled materials
- water harvesting and long term storage
- some internal food production capability.”
As a changemaker, you are passionate about making a positive difference in the world. You may have chosen a career as a helping professional, work for a non-profit or an international development agency. You may be an academic doing research focusing on improving the health of women and children or you may be CEO of a socially-responsible company. Whatever line of work you’re in, you feel “called” to it.
One of the challenges of being a changemaker is that we experience much joy from giving and sometimes may overextend ourselves by sitting on a number of volunteer boards, or by continually pushing through fatigue to finish that one last thing, rather than taking a break and listening to our bodies. Do you relate?
I understand. I’ve almost burnt out several times in my life. When we continually push ourselves without listening to our bodies, we run the risk of experiencing adrenal fatigue or burnout. Dr. James Wilson in his book Adrenal Fatigue The 21st Century Stress Syndrome notes that:
“adrenal fatigue occurs when the amount
of stress [physical, psychological, emotional, infectious, environmental or a
combination of these] overextends the capacity of the body (mediated by the
adrenal [glands]) to compensate and recover from that stress or the combined
stresses. Once this capacity to cope and recover is exceeded, some form of
adrenal fatigue occurs. “ (p. 11)
While working in Afghanistan with the Ministry of Public Health, supporting them to develop their first strategic plan and building the capacity of internal teams to do planning, I got pneumonia twice within the first 6 months of living there. I recall being at the front of the room facilitating a national multi-stakeholder workshop with my team and feeling an incredible burning in my chest as I wrote on the flipchart. It wasn’t until I arrived home for a short break a week or so later and I felt really low in energy and on my husband’s suggestion I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with pneumonia the first time.
So how can you as a changemaker stay healthy, happy and grounded while making a positive difference in the world?
- Connect with and learn to listen to and trust in your body’s wisdom. Our bodies are amazing receivers and transmitters of information. They always let us know if something is wrong. Body scanning is an excellent tool when we wish to increase awareness of our body and the messages it sends us. Tara Brach in her book Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of Buddha, walks you through a detailed body scan and explains its power.
regular time in nature. Go for a short walk at lunch or walk in the park
after work. Go for a hike with a partner, friend or family member. The Japanese
have done longitudinal research to show that when we walk among trees it
reduces our heart rate, reduces our blood pressure and increases the number of
natural killer cells our bodies produce (e.g. strengthens our immune system).
strong boundaries. If someone asks you to participate in a new community
activity (e.g. fundraise for a local charity) or add an extra project to your
already “full plate” at work, learn to say “no”. As givers we often say “yes”
without thinking about what we already have on our “to-do” lists. I encourage
you when asked to do something new, to take several deep breaths, go inside
your body and ask yourself the question: Will
this bring me joy? Do I really want to do this? Do I have time for this?
And if the answer is “no” practice saying “no” without feeling guilty.
- Get 7 to
8 hours of sleep per night. Sleep heals and replenishes our bodies.
from digital devices for 60 to 90 minutes before going to sleep. Artificial
light from screens increases alertness and suppresses the hormone melatonin by
up to 22% negatively affecting sleep, performance and mood. 
If you’d like to learn more proven strategies for preventing burnout and staying healthy, happy and grounded while living your passion I invite you to check out my #1 best selling book on Amazon Learning to Dance with Life: A Guide for High Achieving Women. FYI, men find it useful as well J. In the book I share 7 keys to what I call Creative Living. 7 keys to “consciously cultivating improved health, happiness, fulfillment and inner peace in your life.” Each key has powerful strategies and proven practices backed up by research from neuroscience, Eastern psychology and the health-promoting and healing benefits of the arts.
I’d love to hear from
you what strategies you’ve found useful to prevent burnout and reduce the
stress in your life. I welcome your comments and suggestions below.
As a heart-centered leader and/or changemaker, it is important to support others within your team and/or organization to embrace change. This may be easier said than done. Here are a few “tried and true” strategies.
discuss upcoming changes; (e.g. new leadership, reorganization) and ask
people to share how they are feeling about the changes
- Communicate about the changes and openly discuss how they may impact you and your team
- Ask how
people would like to be supported during the change process. I so relate to
Brene Brown’s work, the examples she shares in “Dare to Lead”, and the
importance of scheduling “rumbling sessions” during times of uncertainty and change.
“These changes are coming hard and fast, and I know there is a lot of anxiety … I want to spend the next forty-five minutes rumbling about how we’re all managing the changes” (p. 35).
those team members who are uncomfortable with change to start slowly and
integrate small changes into their daily routines (e.g. drive to work a
different way, when dressing if they usually put their right leg into their
pants first, start with their left leg, try sleeping on the other side of the
bed … . Change is like a muscle; the more
you welcome change into your life, the easier it becomes. Ariane
de Bonvoisin in “The First 30 Days – Your Guide to Making Any Change Easier”
identifies six “change demons” and their antidotes. The six change demons are:
fear, doubt, blame, guilt, shame and impatience. She explains that the change
demons “help us navigate through change by alerting us if we are off course and
encouraging us to choose a different emotion to help us get where we want to
go.” (To learn more visit: https://pamela-thompson.com/can-reduce-fear-change-power-beliefs/)
- View embracing change as a creative process that opens us up to new possibilities (a foundational belief of my “Art of Change Framework”- https://pamela-thompson.com/2017/10/), and speak with your team about the value of internalizing this belief.
- Use the
change process as an opportunity to be creative and innovative and create
space and opportunities for team members to share innovative ideas. William and
Susan Bridges in their book “Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change”
share some excellent examples of this.
I’d love to hear from you what strategies you’ve found effective to support others in your groups, teams and organizations to embrace change. I welcome your comments and ideas below.