(Air date: June 12, 2020)
Our world is constantly changing; now more than ever before. Community leaders are being forced to not only navigate their own responses to change but also identify strategies to help those around them. Jody Horntvedt and Toby Spanier reflect on the assumptions and stages of change and also discuss strategies for leaders to help themselves and their communities.
In this special series, we are looking back on webinars and articles shared early during the pandemic and how that information needs to shift for our current reality.
"I think it's really important to understand that there are stages of change that we go through. They are denial, existence, exploration and acceptance. And given those four stages, there're different orientations."
— Toby Spanier
- Christy Kallevig, Extension educator
- Jody Horntvedt, Extension educator, leadership and civic engagement
- Toby Spanier, Extension educator, leadership and civic engagement
- View Jody and Toby’s original webinar from March 31 to get more insights and ideas on how to navigate change.
- Use the Community Vitality page as your go-to resource for help in your community work.
- Discover a variety of resources from University of Minnesota Extension to help you during these challenging times.
Read this episode's conversation below.
Note: Our Vital Connections On Air episodes are audio-based interviews. Written transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before referencing content in print.
Christy Kallevig: Hello, this is Christy Kallevig, host of Vital Connections On Air. We have been experiencing some really difficult things in the last few months, and we know that there are more challenges ahead at the Center for Community Vitality. We have been working to bring topics and partners together through webinars and articles since the end of March to get you the information that you need.
Now, I'm going back to those educators and asking them for updates and insights on what we should be doing in our current context. I'm sharing in small parts from these long conversations over the next several weeks so that we can listen, reconnect with ideas and hopefully take the next small steps.
Here is part of my conversation with Jody Horntvedt and Toby Spanier, leadership and civic engagement educators, as we reflect on their navigating change webinar from March 31st.
Christy Kallevig: As you think about change, what is kind of that first thing that you think people need to know about or the assumptions that are out there?
Jody Horntvedt: Well, for me, when I think about that, there's so much change going on right now, and it feels like it's being, you know, pressed on us and people respond in different ways. And so I think it can be helpful to think about some of the assumptions that we make about change is what we teach in our programs as well — is that change is occurring.
It's always been occurring. It's all around us. It’s in our environment, it's in our lives in multiple ways. And so it is occurring and it needs to occur. Whereas we'd be stagnant. We wouldn't be any better tomorrow than we are today. The second assumption is that each of us deals with change differently and we may be in a very different place than someone, you know, right next to us, someone in our homes, someone else in our community.
And that's okay because we all have to process it differently. And that leads to the third assumption. And that the third assumption is that it's really important to be aware of how we individually deal with change so that we can recognize that, and we can recognize it in others as well and help each other move through the change process. And then I would end with the fourth assumption that we all go through the same stages of change. We go through them at different rates and in different ways, based on our personality, our style for change. But we all do go through those same change process in again, multiple ways, but we do work through them.
Christy Kallevig: Do you think that if we have a better understanding of those assumptions, it helps us to be more empathetic towards others? Can that help, not only the people that we are with, but also help ourselves in this process?
Jody Horntvedt: You know, when you asked that Christy, the word that comes to mind for me is grace. I think around the assumption that we extend that and we practice grace that we have to give yourself a bit of a break and recognizing that we're in a place right now, and we need to move through that, but also the people around us and to not jump to conclusions and make assumptions about other people and ourselves, but I'll just end with grace.
Christy Kallevig: And grace is a word that I know that you and I have used in conversations long before the time of COVID-19, but I feel like it is showing up in more and more conversations lately. And I hope people are really embracing that.
Jody Horntvedt: Yeah, you agree.
Christy Kallevig: And that change process, I think that that's really important to understand. And also something that you talked about during your first webinar. For those that maybe aren't really familiar with it, what does that change process look like and why does it matter?
Toby Spanier: Jody you know, accurately share that we all respond to change differently, but we all go through the stages of change as well, maybe at different speeds and paces. I think it's really important to understand that there are stages of change that we go through. They are denial, resistance, exploration, and acceptance; and given those four stages, there's different orientations.
So when you're in the denial stage, oftentimes you're thinking about the past of what has been and your trying to hang on to that. And that's also an area of change that as a leader or the person who is helping others is to really give as much information about the change as you possibly can. Sometimes that's unknown. But we do oftentimes lack communication during this stage. So helping people through this stage when they're in denial is just give them as much good information as you possibly can.
Toby Spanier: When people enter stage two around resistance, it's really important to give them support because that's when the emotional domain is really occurring, when people's feelings and thoughts about how they are reacting to it. The gut reaction is occurring, so how can you support them and allow them to vent to really listen, listen, and listen during this time because people are sharing things that are really important to them? And we shouldn't just, you know, pooh-pooh those and say that’s not really important, it's not nothing to do with change, but to really support them in their emotional situations.
And then as we move to stage three, it's about their willingness to explore some of the elements of change that are occurring and ways to respond to it and doing things new and differently. And that at that area or that stage, it's really important just to give encouragement and provide ways that people can learn in a safe environment.
Toby Spanier: Be willing to maybe not be successful right away, and it might fail, but you continue to encourage them to continue to try. And finally, when people get to acceptance or adaptation or implementing the new things that have resulted as a change continues to move forward, people are thinking about the future. They’re thinking about what's next. So as a person who is walking alongside them or supporting them or leading them, it's really important at that stage to begin planning for what's next, because change will continue to occur, as Jody mentioned, that something that is part of life. And so how might they be a part of the planning and the ownership of the next change that will occur?
Christy Kallevig: I thought it was funny. I saw a meme on Facebook. I think it was where it was in the voice of a person saying, you know, “Yesterday was great. I folded my laundry. I got the house clean. Today, I am back on the couch with a bowl of ice cream.” And I think it's important to acknowledge that yeah, there are those stages that we move through with change, but we're not necessarily always going to keep moving forward. Right? Sometimes we go backwards and that's okay. We shouldn't beat ourselves up about it. Right?
Toby Spanier: Yeah. I think that's absolutely right. I think of myself, even as I've went through some of the more recent changes; generally wanted to move forward pretty quickly because I'm a fairly optimistic person. And I found myself weeks into this new change that I'm having a little bit of grief, you know, kind of maybe falling back into stage two around, not necessarily resistance, but certainly grief and doing a process of mourning. So, you know, maybe initially I wasn't letting my emotions out, but as time wore on, as the weeks were on, I started to feel like maybe I had overlooked that stage and needed the process through that stage really well in order to move forward.
So I think [having], as you use the term, both you and Jody to use the term grace, allowing that grace to apply to yourself as well, being patient with yourself as you go through these stages. ‘Cause it isn't always linear. Oftentimes we'll go through a stage and then something will occur or maybe something that we didn't expect in regard for the new change has altered that and put us back in, “Well, I'm okay with changing this much, but not don't ask me to change even more!”
Christy Kallevig: Right. Well, and I think too, just like in Minnesota right now, we're seeing that the dials are being turned. And so we're recording this today on June 2nd. Yesterday, some new businesses were allowed to open up, restaurants can have outdoor seating and that almost starts the process over again. I feel like at least that we're going to go back on into our communities and things aren't going to look the way that they did when we went into our houses back in March.
Toby Spanier: Absolutely. And people will go through the stages of change based on the information they have. So as information changes and we get new information, it's almost like we're going through the stages again, as new information becomes available. It's like, “Oh, I didn't expect that.” Or, “Oh, that was not something I had known previously.” And now I'm dealing with it all over again or in a new way, because it's something, an element of change I didn't anticipate.
Christy Kallevig: Right. And how our minds work through that information. And so Jody, I want to hear from you because Toby was really open about how kind of moved through these stages. How have you moved through your stages?
Jody Horntvedt: I think that I tend to be the kind of person who takes that in and processes it. I tend to move through the change cycles rather quickly. That's just my personal way of reacting to change. I tend to be an innovator or an early adopter when you see those change cycles. But there have been things that have been a bit more challenging as I try to process, who and how I can connect with people and the things we take for granted. I catch myself some days going, “Oh, I just long for that nexion or the ability to do those things that I once did in that way.” And knowing that I might not ever be able to engage in react in the same ways. We don't know, right?
Right? So there's a lot of that unknown out there. Yeah. And I think that, that points to me, this notion of our minds as we go through and think about the changes, whether they're happening to us. And there's a difference whether the change is happening to us or we're leading that change.
Christy Kallevig: Oh, absolutely.
Jody Horntvedt: So I would say that many times when I teach workshops around change, we have people think about how they responded when the change has happened to them and how they respond when they've been able to lead the change. And so I know for myself in this time of COVID I found myself leading change in new ways around how can we deliver programs online? How can we find new ways to connect with people? How can we make this happen? And I tend to kick in on that mode and sort of the take action, but on the other end you know, it can be hard if we're the ones not directing that change.
Christy Kallevig: And it's, it's also just how our minds are working too, right? I mean how rational you are about what you are seeing and when that emotional mind kicks in and how that takes over too, right?
Jody Horntvedt: It's very much about that. And so I think for myself, I tend to using the rational side of my brain more than the emotional side. I know that from personal assessments and things I've done, I just know that about myself. But it is really important to strengthen both sides of our mind. And I'll share a little bit because in order for change to either making change, planning it, or responding to it, we need both our rational and our emotional mind. So, you know, our emotional mind is this is the part of us that's about feeling, the energy, instinct and sometimes the short-term gratification comes from that side of our brain.
And then there's the rational side of our brain, which is logic and thinking, planning. We are analyzing things. And that leads to, you know, sometimes the downside of that too, of over analyzing, overthinking, brainstorming without decision. And so, you know, the reason we need both to draw on both parts of our mind is that with the emotional mind, without the rational, you have passion, but no direction.
It's like, what are we going to do? What are we going to do? You know, this is happening. And it takes the rational mind because the rational without the emotional is like, we understand this, we get this, but we have no motivation to do anything about it. So when, when Toby was mentioning that the change process that we go through, that first stage that he mentioned about denial is really in our cognitive domain.
It doesn't make sense. We don't want to work through that. We don't want to do that. When we moved to that second stage, which is more about, you know, reacting to change or the resistance we're into that emotional side … like I can't do this and you know, this doesn't make sense and you hear those kinds of conversations. And then when it moves to that third stage, we're still in that emotional line where we're maybe beginning to explore and investigate, but we're fully not bought in.
And then by the time we moved to that last stage of the change process, it's really about acceptance and implementing. And then we're more into our rational mind again. So we need both, we need the rational mind to analyze and the emotional mind to motivate. We need the rational mind to get those ideas going. So we're not stuck in the emotion. And then we need our emotional mind to actually motivate us and give the energy to act on what we've figured out.
Christy Kallevig: You know, and then to what we know about neuroscience during times of crisis is that we know that that emotional part of our brain is in charge so much more that we sometimes have to push to get into that rational space.
Jody Horntvedt: And with all that's going on right now in the world, not just the COVID-19, but you know, you mentioned we're recording on June 2nd and all that's been happening here in Minnesota around race and racism and the riots and all of the things that are going on. It's that “emotional” is highly kicked in right now. And everyone is drawn into those pieces. And at some point we have to get to the place of using the rational mind to think through what can we do? What do we need to do and begin moving through that piece? It happens.
Christy Kallevig: As we think about moving forward, because like I said, the dials are starting to move. We're starting to see things around us change again. What are some new ideas or things that you would really want people to keep in mind as they lead themselves through this, as they lead their families, as they lead their communities?
Toby Spanier: Well I would share that I think it’s really important to develop habits. I can share three habits that I think are helpful. Think about how we are responding to change personally, but also how we're helping others in our families, in our organizations, in our communities deal and respond to the change that we're all part of.
The first one is the first habit is really just spend time building relationships. There are social motivators. If you've ever heard of the SCARF model, the scarf model talks about social motivators that are really important for people to be motivated and influenced to change it. The SCARF stands for status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness. And those four motivators are really important for anyone who is leading others or working in a group to help the group understand how to navigate the changes.
A second behavior or habit is to activate insights. How can we activate insights in ourselves and in others, because insights release dopamine, and dopamine activates intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is really what aids behavior change. So how do you get insights? How does a person get insight? Well, one way is by asking questions of a person.
And the final habit is related to focus on learning. And that would be a focus on a growth mindset that even though as we deal with change and the many new ways of learning because of the change is to focus on a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. A fixed mindset would say, you just got to be good at something and continue to do that and avoid those things that are problematic or challenging for you.
A growth mindset would say, I can get better at this. And I'm willing to try to do that. I might not be perfect, but I'm going to continue to try to improve my skills and my knowledge in this area. So by practicing a growth mindset, we are really focusing on learning. And that is a really important habit when we're dealing with change. That will help all of us. And it helps others recognize that I have that grace to learn while I'm experiencing this change.
Jody Horntvedt: One of the pieces that another colleague of ours in leadership and civic engagement here in our center shared with me recently, was something called the four R's to manage the stress from change. And it was Catie Rasmussen. She's a certified emotional intelligence trainer and she had shared these four R's. And I really found that they could really be a helpful thing for people to think about.
And the first R was reflect. So Toby mentioned that introspection piece of that. And really that reflect is about [identifying] what's actually changing and then naming what's continuing, because we sometimes when we're facing change, we think it's all changing and we have no control over anything anymore and everything's happening and whatever, but there are actually things in your life that are not changing. And if you begin to reflect and separate those out and be able to name them and say sometimes we do the things that we do normally. Christy gave that example earlier about doing the laundry, right? And then kicking back into, I don't know what to do, but there are places there where not everything is changing. And so let's figure out what we can control and what we can't and be aware of that.
The second area is reassess. And again, Toby mentioned mindset, right? So let's break out of the mindset in which everything should be just the way it is. You know, use this time as an opportunity to reassess where things are at. Maybe take stock of your interests, your abilities, your resources, and say, what might I be able to do as a result of this change? How does it fit within my life's priorities? Maybe it's time for me to take that next step. So reflect, reassess.
The third R is retreat. And I say that as this notion of saying, you need some time for yourself. If there's a way that you can build in quiet time, either for yourself or for others in your life to come together — that can give you that opportunity to retreat from the uncertainties of the transitions that you're part of right now, and it can provide that sense of safety or security.
And people have been dealing with so many things. They've been working from home and parenting and teaching their children. And some people are teachers and they're teaching other people's kids and they're teaching their own kids and they're trying to juggle these things in their lives. And now we're moving into a summer phase, which is different again. And so it's another change in those routines and those schedules. And so maybe you just need to find that space for yourself and others to really come together and talk about that.
And then the fourth R is resiliency. Part of being a resilient person, a resilient leader is to think positive and be proactive. So, you know, think about how can I reframe my attitude of thinking of this change as an opportunity rather than a danger? How can I be proactive and plan what I can control in this change and how can I integrate this change into my work and my personal life? And I think we're all then able to move forward when we get to that phase of thinking about it as an opportunity rather than fighting against it.
Christy Kallevig: Thank you to Jody Horntvedt and Toby Spanier for a great conversation on change. Please make sure to visit the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Community Vitality webpage at extension.umn.edu/community-development, where you will find more resources on economics in Minnesota and your community, as well as all of the recordings of the webinars and articles that we're releasing during this COVID-19 time.
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Reviewed in 2020