Lead Through the Complexity of Change

Change is a tricky thing. Sometimes we look forward to it. Sometimes we run from it. Regardless of how we respond, change always has a way of finding us. Learning our natural change style can help us capitalize on our strengths in seasons of change as well as  guard against potential pitfalls.

Based on Myers Briggs (MBTI) personality theory, there are four common responses to change. Rather than go into detail on the MBTI, let’s describe these four responses …

Dreamers

“Change it, that’ll make it better.”

Often drawn toward change, the Dreamers, appreciate the opportunity to look at things in a different way. Others may see them as the instigators of change. Change is fun for Dreamers when it engages their creativity and they can influence the direction of change. When the circumstances get complicated, they see possibilities and think about what they  could change to make it better. At times they may struggle with pacing change and dive in too quickly or forget to bring others along.

Tips for Dreamers:

  • Get involved early to leverage your creative insights
  • Be an inspiration to others
  • Find someone who will ask you the tough questions
  • Set up support to follow through on the change

Fixers

“If it’s not broken, why fix it?”

As the opposite of Dreamers, Fixer’s motivation for change is to go after what’s broken rather than explore possibilities or dreams. It’s not that they avoid change, but they want to study what is really going on. Then, lay out the plan, define roles and clarify outcomes before diving in too quickly. Fixers  see what could go wrong and how to make it better. They may get bogged down overthinking change rather than moving forward.

Tips for Fixers:

  • Let others dream, then ask the practical questions 
  • Be involved in the “how” of change
  • Share the “what if” scenarios, however, don’t get stuck in them
  • Introduce efficiencies to make the process  better

Doers

“Let’s do it, not talk about it.”

Change is motivating when crucial action must be taken to get better results. The tangible action steps to make future plans a reality stands out to Doers. They act quickly and instinctively know where to start to get things done and bring forward solutions. Focused on what is working and what is not helps Doers bring clarity to what can be done in the here and now. They may introduce quick fixes rather than seeing the bigger picture. 

Tips for Doers:

  • Point out the results of changing
  • Take action to make the change happen
  • Break it down into steps
  • Guide others in what to do

Thinkers

“Let’s think about this another way.”

While Doers are all about taking action, Thinkers are all about pausing to evaluate change from every angle. Their goal is to acquire a deep understanding and work on creative ideas to solve the problem at its root. Thinkers are confident there is an answer out there and if they keep thinking they will find it. Sometimes they can get stalled on taking action as they wait for all the angles to “gel”.

Tips for Thinkers:

  • Ask for the time to research and think
  • Contribute your novel ideas
  • Find others who push you to take action
  • Evaluate how it lines up with bigger picture

Knowing your approach to change offers insights as to what to ask for during times of change as well as revealing how you can best  contribute to the effort. Knowing the approach others may take to change gives you the opportunity and added perspective to lead others through the complexity of change. 

Reflection:

Ask yourself a few questions to set yourself and others up for success during times of change. 

  1. What change style is most like your own approach to change?
  2. When you are at your best, what are ways you contribute in the midst of change?
  3. What information do you typically need to bring your best during change?
  4. What do others, also involved in the change, commonly need in order to succeed?

Next Steps:

Learn more about navigating the messy middle of change, when the way forward might be unclear, in the latest Side by Side Podcast interview with Heidi Lewerenz, or check it out on Apple, Google, or Spotify.

What strategies help you make your way through change? How does that help you lead others? Comment below.

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Annie Perdue Olson

Annie is founder of Leading Better Together, guiding leaders through the relationship and people challenges that sidetrack ministry. With 20+ years of experience in nonprofit management and pastoral ministry she equips people and teams to work better together. She holds a Master of Arts in Human Resources and Change Leadership from St. Thomas University and received her coaching certification from the Center for Coaching Excellence.

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