Change: An Uncomfortable Ally

Madelanne is a psychotherapist with a degree in Somatic Counselling Psychology. Read about some recent work she did as a RISE consultant and her reflections on change.

Note from the Field

Initiating an organisational change process can be a thrilling experience. It can represent new possibilities for leadership and achievement, a supportive environment to name, understand, and remove barriers to success, and a forum in which much-needed transformation can occur. Along with these high hopes, however, can also bring some fear and apprehension. Clients often worry: what if the organisation shifts in a way that puts me or the team at a disadvantage, or exposes our individual or collective weaknesses? Do I have what it takes to go through the turbulence of change without making mistakes and embarrassing myself in front of the group?

Change is a vital nutrient; if we resist it in our organisational systems or in ourselves we become stiff and stale. Change invites us to let go of what is no longer useful. And yet, within the flow of change is also an invitation to rediscover what is truly important, what must be held on to, perhaps developed even more if we are to succeed. This two-way movement of change – of being asked simultaneously to let go of and to hold on to – brings us to the very heart of what we fear and what we care about the most. Herein lies its power, and its intensity. 

At a recent client retreat, our RISE facilitation team held a whole-group process for sharing analysis and feedback around a challenging topic, which had been troubling the organisation for some time. Normally, we would have chosen to address a potentially “hot” subject in smaller groups; however, this time around we decided that a whole-group process was the way to go. Our intuition was that the group needed to take this step together, to engage in authentic feedback and productive conflict as a whole system, rather than in small breakout groups.

For the entire process – which took almost 2.5 hours, with a group size of approximately 20 people – the group was utterly focused. They took daring risks, assessing the issue with clarity and forthrightness. I could sense in myself and in the room a particular quality of tremoring aliveness. The group was breaking through invisible barriers to communication and connection as they experimented within the container we provided. They were changing, and in the process, they were coming alive: connecting in with what mattered most to them as individuals, and as participants in their shared business.

After the retreat, this client group expressed appreciation, in particular for this part of their experience, saying that they wanted even more of the whole-group work. At the same time, they remarked with some surprise on how much energy it had required of them. In a post-facilitation debrief, my colleague Andrew Venezia remarked that what the group had liked was exactly the same thing that they didn’t like so much. This made me smile, and reminded me yet again of the double-edged nature of this important nutrient.

It takes a remarkable amount of courage, trust, and goodwill to step wholeheartedly into change, to receive its uncomfortable gifts, and to truly benefit from it as a group. As a facilitator of organisational change, I am keenly aware of its demands. And yet, each time I cross the threshold into change with a client, I know that – like the experience I’ve just described – they have the potential to come back more alive and more connected to the positive impacts they want to have together and in the world.