Managing change by avoiding key emotional triggers

Change initiatives require physical and mental effort, but many people fail to consider that they also require a great deal of emotional energy.  In fact, change can be quite an emotional energy hog, and psychological triggers can zap the critical energy necessary to produce successful change.

In her book, The Emotional Energy Factor, therapist Mira Kirshenbaum calls emotional energy “the most precious form of energy you have.”  It’s the source that gets us through the toughest times – the resolve, the faith, the attitude that keeps us pushing forward in the face of great challenge.  It’s the energy most needed to implement change.  Yet often it’s the energy most needlessly drained during the change process, and change leaders are to blame when this happens.

I have led many change rollouts, admittedly making some mistakes along the way.  Additionally, I have been on the receiving end of several change efforts, learning firsthand the impact of good and bad change management.  In order to understand the psychological effects of change management on a person's emotional energy, let’s take a look at how those initiatives were structured and the impact they had on me:  

Good experience –

Outcomes -

Bad experience –

Outcomes -

When leaders conserve energy in the planning and rollout phases, the change process will require an increasing demand for energy from everyone as the change is implemented.  The change becomes an uphill battle, leadership action becomes reactive, and emotional energy is wasted.

To keep emotional energy intact, leaders must plan with emotions in mind.  Even when little time is available to plan, leaders can tame the emotional energy hog if they focus on avoiding these natural emotional triggers:

If leaders can protect their stakeholders from these three psychological triggers, they can preserve and even generate healthy amounts of emotional energy to carry their change initiatives through to completion.

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