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Change Resistance – The Watchdog of Change

Change Resistance – The Watchdog of Change

Believe it or not, standing firm against change can be valuable to a change initiative.


Resistance to change can come from deep within. In Michael Crummey’s novel Sweetland, a contemporary Newfoundland community explores the possibility of being resettled. Specifically, the government requires that one hundred percent of the community must agree. One person refuses.

The novel mirrors reality. In the 2016 census, fifteen people called the tiny Newfoundland settlement of William’s Harbour home. Ninety percent of the residents were required to agree to resettlement before it could happen. This change process differed significantly from the forced resettlement of outpost communities that took place between the mid-1950s and 1970s. 

When power to William’s Harbour was finally turned off in the late fall of 2017, only one family remained.

If you were a member of one such community, what change role would you play? 


We each play various roles in change. We may prefer a particular role, identifying as a Leaper, a Bridge Builder or a Tradition Holder.


Perhaps you would be a Leaper, restless and bored with the status quo. You are enthusiastic about change and excited about the possibilities ahead of you. You might even initiate the idea to resettle. 

Maybe you would be a Bridge Builder: waiting to see details of what is being proposed and how others react before signing on. Once on board, you suggest improvements to the change initiative and become a spokesperson, sharing the idea with others in your community. 

Finally, you might play the role of a tradition holder, like Moses in Crummey’s novel – suspicious of the change and labeled as ‘resistant.’

The role we play will also depend on the specific change proposed to us. Whichever position we take, it’s important to be aware of the role we embody – to intentionally leverage the strengths and minimize the challenges of our role and that of those around us.


All too often, when we stand as Leaper or Bridge Builder, we dismiss the value of Tradition Holder.


Yet this voice is significant. Many successful change initiatives are only realized once those who step into Tradition Holder have been honoured.

It takes courage to stand firm in the face of change. When Tradition Holder strengths are leveraged, they act as watchdogs of change. If we are in danger of losing the integrity of our culture, they sound the alarm. 


What’s at stake if we do not honour our Tradition Holders? They become ferocious protectors, guard dogs rather than watch dogs.


They can change a gateway with access and entry points to a fortress, a stronghold that is fortified and heavily protected.

Instead, appreciate the role of the watchdog in the process of change. A Tradition Holder, speaking with courageous authenticity and championing the traditional ways, helps to ensure that nothing of value is lost. 

Once honoured, they share the knowledge of who to talk to and how to get things done. Now, there’s a big difference!


Kerry Woodcock, Ph.D., leads change for a world of change, She coaches pioneers and influencers to amplify the power of relationship and lead over the edge of change. As Principal of Novalda, she develops change leadership capability in organizations and social systems. 


Question | When has a tradition holder proved valuable to your change initiative?

Leading Change with Core Value Stories

Leading Change with Core Value Stories

“At the end of the day, you just ask yourself, ‘How did our vision and values influence decisions I made today?’ If they did not, then they are pretty much BS.”
• Peter Senge, systems scientist 


Core values are vital to engaging your team and creating a culture of positivity, productivity, and purpose. Yet all too often, organizations create a set of values that grow dusty on paper and are rarely expressed through their people. So how can change leaders place core values at the heart of a vision for change? Consider using value stories, a key tool in integrating core values into your change initiative. 


Stories that highlight and honour the expression of core values speak to the heart as well as the mind. 


Value stories are short narratives that focus on a moment where an individual, team, organization, or community fully honours and expresses a core quality or strength. Values that may have been invisible become visible.

The strategies for involving this tool are only limited by your imagination. Weaving value stories into the process of leading change helps to embed core values in your organization’s culture. For instance:

• Start or end meetings with the sharing of personal, team or organizational value stories.
• Share value stories in communication messages.
• Dedicate meeting rooms or hallways to a particular value and the story that accompanies it.

Leading change is all about developing new norms in attitudes and behaviour. Weaving value stories throughout the transformation process of changing climate, mindset and culture allows each person to live and breathe into the change. Here we explore how value stories might be incorporated into a change initiative.


Use value stories to establish a sense of urgency.

Clarifying core values is the first step in inspiring change and moving forward into a new way of being.  To understand which behaviors can take you forward and which ones need to be left behind, first examine your organization’s existing value stories. Honour old value stories for their usefulness in the past, and use them to address any ‘ghosts.’


Previous managers and social norms can haunt an organization, long after an individual has left or standards have outlived their usefulness. 


Change leaders can use this history to push the level of urgency up. Ask questions of your team, such as
• Why is it important for transformation to happen?
• What’s at stake if we remain complacent?


Use value stories to create strong change leadership teams.

New habits and attitudes are often required to develop teams strong enough to lead lasting behavioural change. Value stories can be a tool in creating a safe and courageous space. This helps team members to get up close and personal to new behaviours demonstrated by change leaders, without having to take the initial risk.


“Stories are the flight simulators of social life.”
• Keith Oatley, psychologist and novelist 


The flight simulator effect of creating, collecting and honouring the value stories now becomes paramount. Include value stories about leading change through teamwork. These stories help teams understand how to guide others to and over the edge of change.


Use value stories to reinforce your vision.

Vision and values are intricately woven. Core values complete the portrait of your organization as you develop a vision and strategy for moving forward.

Develop value stories that highlight your organization’s future potential. This helps to ground the vision for change, highlighting how stepping into intentional attitudes and values can overcome challenges to a desired change.


Use value stories to communicate a vision for change. 

Now, use those future potential value stories to reinforce your vision, showing others a portrait of the attitudes, behaviours and actions required to implement change. Communicating the change vision involves much more than simply sharing through words. Your vision must be communicated through deeds. Values in action say more than words, and the actions of your change leadership team must be congruent with the change vision.

Your team is watching! At this point, value stories are useful in acknowledging and appreciating those who honour core values. Showcase individuals and teams who are already demonstrating required behaviours. Sharing these values stories heightens the awareness of others to what is expected and needed. 

At this stage in a change initiative, nothing disempowers change leaders and change leadership teams more than an individual not fully on board with the need for change. Those unable to demonstrate the required values in action must be confronted, and either demoted or asked to leave.


Use value stories to generate short-term wins.

Story plays a huge role in acknowledging wins. Remain aware of the story arc of change, be clear on when wins are needed, and acknowledge those wins. Sharing short-term wins helps your team to see progress, shows the required attitudes and behaviours required, and encourages your organization to keep supporting the change initiative.


Use value stories to consolidate gains and produce more change.

Hiring and supporting people and teams who can implement the change vision is essential at this stage. The beauty in fully honouring core values is that hiring and succession planning becomes easier. Individuals with core personal and team values that align with core organizational values can be quickly welcomed on board.

Ask potential change leaders and change leadership teams to use value stories to express how their personal and team values align with the values of the change vision. This easily highlights who you should hire, promote and develop, and sends a clear message of what is required.


Use value stories to anchor your evolving culture.

John Kotter, a Leading Change expert, warns against the myth that the biggest impediment to creating change is the organization’s culture. This myth leads to attempts to change corporate culture right from the beginning of a change initiative. 

However, values can’t be forced. Instead, amplify them through expressing and honouring value stories. Keep in mind that without values in action, there can be no stories to share.

Remember, creating, collecting and sharing value stories throughout the process of leading change will serve any change initiative well. At the end of the process, remember to record your value stories, creating a portrait of a change leadership team and an organization transformed.


Kerry Woodcock, Ph.D., leads change for a world of change, She coaches pioneers and influencers to amplify the power of relationship and lead over the edge of change. As Principal of Novalda, she develops change leadership capability in organizations and social systems. 


Question | Where do your personal values intertwine with your organization’s values?

Influencing the Winds of Change

Influencing the Winds of Change

“We can see the clouds move, but we cannot see the wind. 
We can see the tides come and go, 
but we do not feel the moon’s gravity that moves them.”
• Arnold Mindell


At any moment, multiple potential futures are possible.


When you think about your personal future, you imagine the many possible futures that could unfold. When you engage our family, team, organization, community, or world in a big opportunity for change, you lead them in imagining a new vision for the future. 

You engage them in an act of collective imagination. Uncertainty is a part of the process, and with that uncertainty comes a myriad of potential futures.

Yet not all potential futures are desirable. Some potential futures are dreamlike, while others feel more like nightmares. Invisible forces are associated with imagined futures. These forces have the power to create our reality. 

Social change specialist Arnold Mindell recognized the power of these invisible forces in shaping reality. 


In the same way that invisible forces of the wind and moon affect the earth, our dreams, hopes, fears and expectations create our reality.


Some forces push us towards creating the dream, while others pull us into a nightmare. The potential futures that we collectively imagine impact our ability to inspire change, influence transition, and emerge transformation. 

Ultimately, these invisible forces influence whether a change initiative will fail or succeed.

Experienced change leaders make the invisible visible. They are aware of and intentionally work with the winds of change, both in themselves and in others. They create a safe and courageous space to hear and work with both hopes and fears associated with change. Throughout the change initiative, they continue to check in on what’s happening below the surface.

It can be easy for those leading change to fall into the trap of suppressing fear, out of concern that it will unbalance those around them. 


However, just because fear is unspoken or hidden does not mean it has no impact.


Bottled-up fear grows more under pressure, leaking out or eventually exploding to create the nightmare.

Being an effective change leader requires speaking to fear with as much courageous vulnerability as hope. Modelling change leadership brings the invisible to the fore for our teams and gives others permission to do the same.

Only once all fears and hopes are out in the open can they be explored for validity and addressed. Only then can a change leader influence those around them to move towards a vision of hope. In this way, leaders can truly influence the winds of change.


Kerry Woodcock, Ph.D., leads change for a world of change, She coaches pioneers and influencers to amplify the power of relationship and lead over the edge of change. As Principal of Novalda, she develops change leadership capability in organizations and social systems. 

Question | What invisible hopes and fears are creating your reality?

Power of Personas

Power of Personas

We’ve all been there – that moment when you are ready to share a new idea or proposal. It’s an innovative product, service, or process that will unlock new value and fulfill new or existing market needs. You see it as a big opportunity for your team and organization. 

A fast-paced discussion leads to an upwelling of support. You feel the sense of urgency in your team members. And then, someone weighs in with the fateful words:

“Let me just play Devil’s Advocate for a minute…”


All too often in our organizations, the voice of Devil’s Advocate comes from a place of deep fear.


The fear is that accepting others’ ideas is an admission of weakness, or about what change might mean to them.

If the intention of the Devil’s Advocate is self-serving, then what can follow is disaster. Your big idea, ripped apart. People taking pot shots, leaving the proposal full of holes. 
A potentially innovative product, service, or process is nipped in the bud.

 Worse still, a psychologically unsafe team is created–an environment where people feel unable to express ideas for fear of being ridiculed and rejected. A team where the potential to collaborate to innovate is threatened.

It doesn’t have to be this way.


The voice of Devil’s Advocate—or sceptic—can be valuable. When it comes from a place of deep curiosity, this persona can lead us to challenge our beliefs, assumptions, and perspectives.


It can uncover blind spots, inspiring us to be even more innovative.

If we know how to work with it, we can use the appearance, or even the potential appearance of Devil’s Advocate to our advantage.

We can choose to engage in new roles. Roles that empower innovation rather than stifle. Roles that can speak to the concerns of the Devil’s Advocate.  Step into innovation by playing a different role. Wearing the hat of a Learner, Organizer or Builder changes the dance. Even when Devil’s Advocate is edged against us, we can move forward. 

Step into the role of Learner to humbly create the curiosity that leads to true urgency, challenge your own worldview and become open to new insights. 

Step into the role of Organizer to playfully compete for time, attention and resources, working with the budget and red tape to move the idea forward. 

Step into the role of Builder to visibly apply insights from the Learner and channel the empowerment of the Organizer.

Within these roles we can draw on the ideas of innovation expert Tom Kelley, and take on a variety of personas. We can bring the ten personas of innovation out to play. Each persona has a unique strength that further builds psychological safety.

The innovation personas include the Caregiver, the Set Designer, and the Storyteller. The Collaborator and Director encourage the team to learn together, while valuing everyone’s input. The Experimenter frames failure as a learning opportunity. The Anthropologist acknowledges limits, authentically sharing what they know and don’t know.

Even better, we can access these allies within ourselves, and call on those we work with who easily step into particular personas. Do you have a Cross-Pollinator, a Hurdler, or an Experience Architect on your team?


Stepping in to different roles and trying on a variety of personas allows us to bring curiosity, playfulness, and commitment to a room.


We create a space where people feel not only able to, but also responsible for sharing ideas, asking questions, quickly acknowledging mistakes and raising concerns early and often.  

When we step into inner roles and personas with awareness, intention and skill, we allow the emotional space for innovation. We encourage a contagious atmosphere of excitement, hopefulness and confidence. We defuse the potential damage of the Devil’s Advocate and engage the gift of skepticism to reflect and consider.

We change the dialogue. We create the psychological safety (Amy Edmondson, 2001) required for innovation. 

Psychological safety is a shared belief that the team environment is safe for interpersonal risk-taking. Team members feel confident that the team will not embarrass, belittle, reject, or punish anyone for their contribution. With psychological safety, a team can collaborate to innovate.


This is where it gets really exciting! A psychologically safe team that collaborates to innovate has access to a whole team of innovation allies. 


As a change leader, you can help your team collaborate to innovate. By playing different roles and purposefully trying on a variety of personas, with knowledge, awareness, intention, and skill, your team can create a safe and courageous space for innovation. 

 You will be ready to invite in the sceptics and say, as change leadership expert John Kotter would, “Bring on the lions!”

Kerry Woodcock, Ph.D., leads change for a world of change, She coaches pioneers and influencers to amplify the power of relationship and lead over the edge of change. As Principal of Novalda, she develops change leadership capability in organizations and social systems. 


Question | How might engaging the power of personas support you and your team to collaborate to innovate in change?

Channeling Chaos

Channeling Chaos

All great changes are preceded by chaos!
• Deepak Chopra


Emergence is an act of creativity seen in nature, the way complex systems arise out of a diversity of relatively simple interactions. It appears in the complex symmetrical patterns of snowflakes, the ripple patterns in sand dunes, and in places like the Giant’s Causeway.

When a group of people come together as an effective change network, organizational emergence is evident. Simply stated, a collaborative collective is far more intelligent and powerful than the sum of its parts.

Witnessing these change networks emerge is pure alchemy. Even more powerful is the ability of these networks to create the space for systemic change in their organizations.

How do they do it? As with the concept of emergence, there is no ‘one plus one equals two’ answer. Both researchers and practitioners have come to the same understanding — that effective change leaders commit to creating a safe and courageous space for emerging:

• chaos rather than control
• conflict rather than harmony; and
• intelligent failures rather than perfection.

All are requirements of the creative process of transformation.

Change management focuses on implementing the structural processes of change. It controls the change initiative, using simple tools and structures to minimize distractions.

In contrast, change leadership requires different behaviours and skills than those involved in change management. It focuses on inspiring true urgency, influencing head, heart and gut, and emerging collective accountability.


In this process, there is potential for change to feel messy, edgy, risky—uncomfortable. This is normal!


Change leaders learn to live in the discomfort. As Bob Anderson shares, leadership is mastering the tension between safety and purpose.

Is your intention to inspire great organizational or social transformation? Smaller, less impactful changes that are more developmental or transitional in nature can often be managed with little chaos. If we are talking about great transformational changes in mindset and culture, expect chaos as part of the process. 

If there’s no chaos, perhaps it’s time to check the purpose of the change vision as truly transformational and banish mediocrity!

As Chopra reminds us, all great changes are preceded by chaos. The word ‘chaos’ is derived from the Greek ‘chasm’ — a break in continuity, a gap, an edge. As change leaders, when we commit to creating a safe and courageous space for chaos, we honour the change process. 


We lead people up to the edge of change, gape into the chasm of uncertainty, and allow for a diversity of conflicting emotions and thoughts to emerge.


Rather than attempting to quash those emotions and thoughts, or trying to force people to feel or think differently than they do, we allow the diversity of emotions and thoughts to unfold and mingle. Uncertainty and chaos transition into the creation of something new. Collaborative chaos allows for the influencing of hearts, heads and guts and collective accountability to emerge.


‘Conflict is the midwife to constructive change.’
• Marita Fridjhon


Many of us are conflict averse. We haven’t yet learned to develop a healthy relationship with conflict, personally or professionally.

Avoiding conflict does not lead to harmony. If only it was that easy! Unfortunately, attempts to quash conflict in self and others does not eliminate it. Conflict is still there, lurking under the radar and often toxic.

By creating a safe and courageous space, change leaders allow for the development of a healthy relationship with conflict. They empower all the voices of change to be spoken and heard — even the unpopular voices.

Often, these marginalized voices are critical to highlighting potential blind spots in change initiatives. This process can be the spark allowing creative and innovative thinking to emerge.


‘Mistakes are the portal to discovery.’

• James Joyce


Let’s admit it, failure hurts. Yet if we never risk failure, we risk failing our own imagination. If we can learn from failure, it becomes a springboard to creative change. In a safe and courageous space, teams make mistakes and risk failing, but never fail to learn.

Taking advantage of what’s emerging requires awareness, intention, and skill. As you consider the change you hope to lead within your team, let answers to these questions emerge.

• Are you willing to risk chaos by allowing diverse emotions and thoughts to be heard?
• Where are you willing to hear a diversity of voices and risk conflict, or make mistakes and risk failure?
• Where do you dare to be a change leader?

Kerry Woodcock, Ph.D., leads change for a world of change, She coaches pioneers and influencers to amplify the power of relationship and lead over the edge of change. As Principal of Novalda, she develops change leadership capability in organizations and social systems.

Question | What support do you need to channel the chaos of change?

The Window of Opportunity

The Window of Opportunity

A window of opportunity has opened.

You can see it, hear it, feel it, smell it, taste it! The possibilities for your team, your organization, your world are startling. Startlingly obvious to you, anyway.

You are ready to go through this window of opportunity. Now. Before it closes.

You look around. Wait a minute. Are your people ready to go through to the other side? Where are they? Right behind you? Beside you? Already gone through? Or are they tripping over each other, frantically trying to get their things together?

Perhaps they are smiling back at you, bemused, as they continue business as usual. The look says it all—no need to go out there. Take a seat. Relax. Chill for a while.

As a certified Organizational and Relationship Systems Coach, I am trained to read the emotional field and sense the energy of a room. In a similar way, I facilitate leaders to sense the collective energy of a team and notice what’s needed.

The system is always signalling. By paying attention to the signals – the clearing of a throat, a downcast look or nodding head, a knot in the stomach, vibrant conversations in the corridor— leaders get a sense of where the system is now in relation to the big opportunity.

Clues come in noticing what people say and do, and sensing their thoughts and feelings. Do you notice complacency or urgency? Is that urgency false or true? Use the clues to get a clearer understanding of what is wanting to happen.


What do those around you need to hear, see, think and feel to go through that window of opportunity? Only by reading the signals is there potential to raise the sense of urgency for a big opportunity.


Yet it’s all just potential if you as a change leader only look outside of yourself. Looking within is just as important.

What is your sense of urgency? What signals are you sending out to the larger system?

Do you react to complacency and a false sense of urgency with anger and frustration?

Are your actions congruent? Maybe you send out double signals—one saying, ‘Let’s go through that window!’ and another that says, “Hang on a minute. Have we thought this through?’


Change leaders are mindful of emotions and the impact on others, for moods are contagious.


Within two hours of working together, a team will catch the moods of the titled leader and most expressive—whether verbal or non-verbal—member of the team. What is the mood you intend those around you to catch? 

Sense the urgency, and like a tuning fork, respond with what is required to nudge your team over the brink to join you in the land of opportunity and possibility.


Kerry Woodcock, Ph.D., leads change for a world of change, coaching pioneers and influencers to amplify the power of relationship. As Principal of Novalda Coaching and Consulting, she develops change leadership capability in organizations and social systems, and works with leapers and bridge builders to lead self and others over the edge of change. 


Question | What support do you need to take advantage of the window of opportunity?

Poised at the Brink of Change

Poised at the Brink of Change

Are you being called to the edge? It’s the place between the known and the unknown, certainty and uncertainty, the current and the new. 

The world is brought to an edge when worldviews clash. Industry comes to an edge with the booms and busts of volatile markets. Organizations are called to an edge as they shift from an old to a new identity in moving towards a big opportunity. Teams find themselves at an edge each time they are required to go in an unfamiliar direction. Individuals meet an edge when a belief system is called into question.

Whenever change calls to us, we have a choice.

We can acknowledge our personal and collective edges. Or deny them.

As brink leaders in brink times, we choose to be poised at the edge of change. Recognizing edges allows us the opportunity to slow down and step into the discomfort of a transitional and ambiguous space.

To explore the polarity of what is known and unknown, of where we feel sure and unsure. In this fertile ground at the edge, we ourselves, our teams, organizations, and the world have the greatest potential for learning, growth, creativity and innovation.

Julie Diamond, author of A Path Made By Walking, speaks to the majesty and magic of edges when she says, ‘Encountering an edge is like producing art: the interplay between constraint and creativity.’

Sudden, energetic changes signal personal and collective edges. Eruptions and disruptions, laughter and silence, nervousness and excitement, or gaps in information, such as incongruent messages and actions, cycling, and dissociation.

We may fail to notice or purposefully choose to ignore signals that we are at the edge. Yet we do not escape the experience of discomfort in the tension between what is here now and what is wanting to emerge. More disturbingly, we risk missing the opportunity to grow through transition and to emerge transformed.

When all around us change is happening – fast and slow – up and down – booms and busts – what do we do? Do we react or respond? Do we take a moment to stop and become aware to the emotional process within us? Do we listen for the congruence or incongruence between our head, heart, and gut? Do we check in with what is going on around us? What are those around us thinking, feeling, sensing? Do we have the curiosity, compassion, and courage to acknowledge our personal and collective edges?

If we deny our edges, we deny ourselves, our teams, organizations, industries, and world the opportunity to inspire change, lead transition and emerge transformed.

It’s edgy, yet it’s our choice.

‘To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself,’ wrote Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard.

As change leaders, we explore the edges. We dare to stumble and to be real, to acknowledge and be with the discomfort in ourselves and others. We make the invisible visible. We are brink leaders and It’s from the edge that we have an opportunity to fly.


Kerry Woodcock, Ph.D., leads change for a world of change, She coaches pioneers and influencers to amplify the power of relationship and lead over the edge of change. As Principal of Novalda, she develops change leadership capability in organizations and social systems.

Question | What support do you need to feel poised on the brink of change?