Jun 7 / Jackie Kennedy

Adapting to Change: Why Some Individuals Thrive and Others Struggle

On a scale from 1-10, how would you rate your ability to navigate and adapt to change (1 being not very well and 10 being very well)? Has that score always been true for you or has it shifted over time? Have you noticed that some of your colleagues seem to get overwhelmed by workplace changes, while others seem to adapt effortlessly? 

Change is an inevitable part of both our personal and professional lives, yet we all respond to it very differently. Some individuals and leaders see change as an open door with new opportunities, while others take a while to warm up to transitions. Here's more on the cycle of change and leadership tools to help cultivate a positive mindset around it.

The Stages of Change

Research suggests that people typically go through several stages when faced with change. These stages include denial, resistance, exploration, and commitment. The Kubler-Ross Change Curve, originally developed to describe the stages of grief, has been adapted to illustrate these stages of change acceptance.

Denial: Initially, individuals may deny that a change is necessary or that it will happen. This stage is characterised by shock and avoidance.

Resistance: As reality sets in, resistance often follows. People may fear the unknown, worry about their ability to adapt, or feel a loss of control.

Exploration: Gradually, individuals start to explore the new situation. They seek to understand the change and how they can adapt to it.

Commitment: Finally, individuals accept the change and commit to new ways of working.Some people move through these stages quickly, while others may get stuck, particularly in the denial or resistance phases.

Understanding these stages allows leaders to provide appropriate support, such as clear communication, training, and encouragement.

Leadership Tools: Mindsets and Circles of Influence

Two powerful concepts that influence how individuals handle change are the scarcity versus abundance mindset and the circle of control versus the circle of concern.

Scarcity vs. Abundance Mindset: A scarcity mindset focuses on limitations and what might be lost due to change. Conversely, an abundance mindset focuses on opportunities and potential gains. Leaders can help their teams shift from scarcity to abundance by highlighting the positive aspects of change and the potential for growth, learning, advancement and rather of other opportunities and possibilities.

Circle of Concern v Circle of Control: The circle of control includes things we can directly influence, while the circle of concern encompasses broader issues we care about but cannot control. Encouraging individuals to focus on their circle of control during times of change can reduce anxiety and increase a sense of empowerment. It can help people to stay focused on moving forward, taking action and not dwelling or spiralling on things that are outside of their control. In short, this technique can help team members stay in a positive state of mind.

Story: Changes in the Workplace

Sarah is a project manager at a tech company. When her organisation announced a major restructuring, Sarah was initially in denial. She thought everything was working okay the way it was currently. As change began to take shape, Sarah moved into resistance, feeling overwhelmed and frustrated by the new expectations of her. It wasn’t until her manager sat down with her, providing clear communication and support, that she began to explore the new structure and gradually see it as an opportunity to innovate and grow. With time and encouragement, Sarah reached the commitment stage, leading her team successfully through the transition. 

Accepting & Embracing Change

Change can be challenging and transformative. For individuals, navigating change requires a blend of self-awareness, resilience, and adaptability. It's about embracing new realities, letting go of old habits, and cultivating a mindset that is open to learning and evolving. I love the quote by Alexander Graham Bell, 'When one door closes another door opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the ones which open for us'.

Ultimately, it’s our ability to not stand staring at the closed door for too long and to rather focus on all the doors opening around and the ways this change could be better for all. The intersection of individual experiences and leadership support is where successful change management truly happens. When individuals are upskilled with the right training, tools and mindset to navigate change, and leaders are committed to compassionate and effective change leadership, the potential for positive transformation is boundless.

If you’d like to learn more on how our LeadMe Academy Leadership Development Programme can help you and your leaders lead change effectively? Reach out to us here or email connect@leadme.academy.

Onward and upward!
Created with