the shape of leadership

Feel the Burn, Be the Change

Helping your team through growing pains

Kent Ingle on March 19, 2018

Never underestimate a person’s ability to resist to change. You can cognitively agree to a plan that is decidedly different from what has been true. But when push comes to shove, emotions and previous muscle memory come into play.

No matter how hard you want the change to go smoothly, it will at times be awkward, unfamiliar and sometimes even unpleasant. And that’s what I call the pain of change.

When you work out, you get stronger by breaking down your muscles. That is a feeling you can only understand by laying down under that weight bar and committing to lift that particular amount of weight no matter what. And when you work through it, your arms, legs and shoulders feel like mush the rest of the day.

That’s when you know you’re pushing yourself to a new level.

Consistency and persistence will yield the change you want over time. You don’t become noticeably stronger and more toned overnight. You must work through a clearly defined set of movements and phases — and a series of course corrections along the way.

In fact, sometimes the change in your appearance is so subtle, you don’t even recognize it until you refer back to pictures from months or years prior.

The same is true with any kind of change. Whether it is a change in your personal life, your leadership or your team, it can be painful, slow and challenging. But looking back once the change is complete is a fulfilling exercise. You begin to see just how far you’ve come, and it gives you the confidence to keep moving forward.

Push Through the Pain

As you feel the burn of leading through change, remember that others are aching, too. People rarely enjoy pain. The discomfort change brings is often disconcerting, even disorienting. Everyone responds to these feelings differently. Some people lean in. Some may consider giving up. But with encouragement, patience and prayer, everyone can make it through.

Each person progresses at different speeds. It all depends on how comfortable people are with ambiguity. Those who need a defined process will be slower to embrace change.

Create Checkpoints

Give people time to understand the why behind the what of change. This helps establish trust and confidence that you know where you’re going.

Keep taking steps of faith — even when it feels like you’re going nowhere.

Provide plenty of opportunities for people to give you feedback. Regular check-ins are vital because most people won’t just come out and tell you they feel uncomfortable in the midst of change.

Keep moving forward with the vision God provides; otherwise, you’ll stagnate and miss out on the things He wants to do. Progress keeps the momentum going. Keep taking steps of faith — even when it feels like you’re going nowhere.


Your planning may be spot on, thorough and complete. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t make changes along the way.

You never know all the details going into a time of change. You’ll learn things along the way. If you don’t believe me, try renovating a house. It never goes quite as smoothly as you see on HGTV.

Your arrival is more important than your path. Follow your path as it becomes clear to you, but don’t forget that arriving at your destination — the change you want to see take place — is way more important than how you got there.

Don’t Overdo It

There is just one thing I believe will absolutely sideline the change you are trying to lead: a lack of patience. Change is complex because it deals with people, and people are about as complex as it gets. Every person brings to the change process a series of ideas, expectations and assumptions. Some are spoken and identified, but many are not.

If you try to push too hard, too fast, you may risk injury. Just like building muscle, you must create time for rest and recovery. Practice similar disciplines when leading through change.

Give the organization periods of rest while marching toward your goals. Don’t try to accomplish everything in too short a period. Otherwise, you’ll risk good people jumping off, fatigue setting in, and an overall funk taking over.

Push too hard and you’ll suck all the energy out of the process. So be patient. Getting there is much more important than attempting to get there in a hurry.

Be the Change

The people you’re leading take their cues from you. If you remain in the same place, you can’t expect anyone else to make progress. This is why overweight people don’t make good personal trainers and why procrastinators don’t make good productivity consultants. You must practice what you preach.

Your willingness to listen, adapt and grow over time will be the most powerful example you can set for others who are feeling the burn of change. The ability to forgive yourself for pushing too hard and expecting too much too soon highlights a human element to your leadership that makes you authentic, believable and relatable. 

Leadership is about people. And successful change always comes back to the strength of your relationships with others who are going through the change with you. Trust is the environment in which those who hesitate can find the strength to move forward, those who stumble can find the desire to get back up, and those who fail can find the willingness to try again.

If you want to see substantial change take place in and around you, lean in, feel the burn, and be the change you want to see in others.


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