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Change in business : Coaching your team through the jump

My favourite quote about change isn’t by Obama, Ghandi or Oprah – the usual suspects. It’s this: “It’s not so much that we’re afraid of change, or so in love with the old days, but it’s that place in between we fear. It’s like being in between trapezes.” – Marilyn Ferguson, an American futurist. It’s a simple and pragmatic mantra. The quote demonstrates a number of things – a willingness to try something new; an open mindedness; a freedom. But it also recognises the fear – and for anyone with a fear of heights, being between trapezes sounds terrifying. But what you’ll see when you watch a trapeze artist perform is that when they swing, they gain momentum until they feel ready to take the jump and let go into that space between trapezes. There’s a huge amount of trust that their fellow trapeze artist is going to be there, ready, waiting, and safe.

What does this mean for us in business? Should we just let people swing until they are ready? Or should we push them off and force them to make the leap? As leaders in business, our role is to make people feel comfortable enough to let go. We need to paint a clear picture of what the next trapeze looks like, and why it’s a better option to jump than to stay.

How can you talk your team into jumping?

  • Talk about the need: Swapping trapezes will take time, effort and emotional commitment. Wouldn’t you want to know what was wrong with the old one? Take time to describe the challenges with the status quo, describe why you need to change – what’s not working, what could be improved, and what difference it will make to the business, the customer, stakeholders, finance, security etc. Keep it real for them, not just for you. The more meaningful you can make it, the more significance it will have
  • Communicate: Don’t assume that because you’ve made the announcement, or sent out the email, that the messages are immediately understood, digested and embedded. When you think you have told them enough, tell them again, and again and again. Painting a clear vision of what has to be achieved is one of the most important things you can do
  • Talk about the process: Your team needs to know the ‘how’ as well as the ‘what’ in order to give them the confidence to take the leap. They’ll want to know your support is there, that they have opportunity to be involved and to help the change take place. They’ll be able to gauge a start point and an end point; when they can start swinging normally again.


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