Change Leadership Secret – 97 – Unfreeze the Status Quo

Change Leadership — Secret # 97
Unfreeze the Status Quo

The time is always right to do what is right.
—Martin Luther King, Jr.

What I Need to Know

The second stage of the change process is to unfreeze the current state.


The person must let his dream and desire to keep forever the status quo die. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross developed the famous Five Stages of Grief model:

1. Denial. “This cannot be happening to me.”
2. Anger. “Why did this happen to me? It’s not fair!”
3. Bargaining. “Let’s make a deal and say this never happened.”
4. Depression. “I have nothing. I don’t know what to do.”
5. Acceptance. “I don’t like it. But it really happened.”

Letting Go

Once people have accepted the impending end of the status quo, they must ultimately let go of it. Letting go is the last act of unfreezing the current situation. It is the stage when the chains have been cut, the knots have been untied, and the bonds have been melted. At this point, the resistors have given up their efforts to keep the change proposal from being accepted. They must now get out of the way or get squashed. Of course, they may still throw sand in the gears and try other ways to sabotage the change, but at this point, they cannot stop it from starting.

What I Need to Do

As a change leader, you should be aware that these stages are important processes that the client must, in many cases, traverse before the actual change process can be initiated.

It is often difficult for people to pull themselves from one stage to the next without external help. Your role will be to gently usher your client through each stage, enabling him to release the emotions, but also ensuring he does not get stuck in a stage.

These stages are all loaded with emotion, so steel yourself for a potentially bumpy ride with the client.
People recovering from addiction or the death of a loved one are not the only people who go through these stages; you do not have to be an addiction or hospice counselor to find yourself in the middle of an emotionally charged situation. Many people invest the majority of their self-esteem in their jobs and, therefore, perceive their very livelihoods are at stake. Take the stages as seriously as your client does.

Retain your sanity by retaining your own emotional detachment.

Action Summary

  • Monitor the customer through the unfreezing process.
  • Be prepared for high emotions.
  • Provide support, as appropriate, to pull the customer from one stage to the next.
Change Leadership Secret - 97 Unfreeze the Status Quo

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