The other side of change, and what does it take to get there?

May 5, 2014 | Hamilton, Ontario
Contributed by Teal McAteer, Associate Professor, Human Resources & Management with Kristine Leadbetter, Advancement Officer

woman-horizonA three part mini-series on voluntary change

Part 3 – So what does it take to get to the other side?

For those of you just joining us, this is the third and final edition of our three part mini-series of “Voluntary Change” featured in Month@DeGroote. Click here to view Part I – Why in 2014 we need to deliberately give ourselves a kick in the pants. Click here to view Part II – So how do we recognize when we need to shake things up?
Before you can make a successful change you must know your starting point or “current state”. In change, it’s about getting the foundation in place which often means “slowing down to speed up”. You must look at where you or your company is right now, next look to where you want to be, and then look at the magnitude of what needs to transpire in-between to get there. Many of us want to change, but we want it to happen at the snap of our fingers. Positive and strong change is gradual.

Many of us want to change, but we want it to happen at the snap of our fingers.

Too many people, once they get into the mode of, “ok I will make change” want to get over there and get it done fast. It’s not a fast process, and it will become a crumbling process if you don’t spend time on the foundational piece which is the “current state”. The thought process in leading up to change can be a crucial part of the change process. Ask yourself: Have I created the right support system so that when something happens, either voluntarily or involuntarily, I will keep myself from turning back? Can I fall but get up and keep going? Can I embrace the attributes of the frog and only jump forward?

Kurt Lewin’s Change Model 1

Lewin’s Change Model is a simple demonstration of the process of change. The first phase of change is identified as unfreezing our normal or “current state”, this means to begin unfreezing our established patterns or views. We do this by challenging existing attitudes, beliefs and values, and then offering alternatives. This is our preparation for change.

The second phase is changing, in which we begin our transition to a new state of normal. This is a time of uncertainty and confusion, as we struggle to build a clear understanding of the new thinking and behaviours or practices that will replace the old normal. This is where we may hit road blocks that may make us doubt our decisions and miss the old normal. This is where 80% of us turn back because of the pain of “breaking down to break through” — a process absolutely necessary for successful change.

Life is a succession of crises and moments when we have to rediscover who we are and what we really want.

– Jean Vanier

In the final stage we refreeze our new pattern and establish a new mind-set and a new normal. We have a changed reality and look for ways to capitalize on the new opportunities it offers. This cycle continues as we constantly reevaluate our decisions and environment throughout our journeys. It’s simple theories, tried and true, but how do we find the inner motivation to make the step and keep walking?

Change is a never-ending part of organizational and personal life. Managing it effectively is one of our principal challenges. But initiating voluntary change is what will set us apart and keep us ahead. So don’t be left behind. Don’t resist change and don’t settle. Push yourself into an uncomfortable situation, the payoff, could be big.

1 The Sage Handbook of Methods in Social Psychology: Lewin’s equation

mcateer-thDr. Teal McAteer is an Associate Professor in Human Resources and Management at the DeGroote School of Business, McMaster University. Dr. McAteer specializes in the areas of Leadership Development: Change and Stress Management, and Strategic Career Development.

Dr. McAteer maintains her own coaching practice offering change, stress, and career management services to organizations and on an individual basis. Her primary emphasis continues to be in helping people articulate their goals for change in their personal and professional lives, establish specific action steps with time lines, anticipate barriers to change, initiate measures to ensure accountability for actions, and embed progress measures to reach change success. To find out more about Dr. McAteer’s coaching sessions, you can contact her at or

3 thoughts on "The other side of change, and what does it take to get there?"

  1. Donna says:

    Excellent mini series. Very insightful reading. Some of which, is such common knowledge but, of course, it is the 2nd and 3rd phase that makes the difference. A silly question, but is there a program @ DeGroote that you can take just on your specialization – a mini-program so to speak – ongoing but specific to your areas of expertise; Leadership Development: Change and Stress Management, and Strategic Career Development?

    Thank you for the “kick in the pants”.


    1. Jared Lenover says:

      Hi Donna.

      You may be interested in some of our Executive Education programs. Let us know if you have any questions about them!

      DeGroote Digital Marketing Officer

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