The Seven Traits of Change-Readiness

Nicole Greer, Adjunct Instructor, UNC Charlotte Continuing Education

The world has experienced significant upheaval in the past few months and this has led to many changes both in our personal lives as well as in the way we work. This transformation is likely to continue and organizations that are able to demonstrate their agility and ability to reinvent themselves in the face of adversity will be positioned for long-term success.

world map on change keyboard

During this time, it will be important for all of us to understand how ready we are to address these changes. One of the many topics in UNC Charlotte’s Change Management and Organization Development course is the seven traits that can be used to assess your change-readiness.

Each of these characteristics, along with a brief description, are included below:

Resourcefulness: Resourceful people are effective at taking the most of any situation and utilizing whatever resources are available to develop plans and contingencies. They see more than one way to achieve a goal, and they're able to look in less obvious places to find help. They have a real talent for creating new ways to solve old problems.

When people low in resourcefulness encounter obstacles, they get stuck, dig in their heels, and go back to the old way. People with very high levels of resourcefulness might overlook obvious solutions and create more work than is necessary.

Optimism: Is the glass half empty or half full? Optimism is highly correlated with Change-Readiness, since the pessimist observes only problems and obstacles while the optimist recognizes opportunities and possibilities.

Optimists tend to be more enthusiastic and positive about change. Their positive outlook is founded on an abiding faith in the future and the belief that things usually work out for the best. People with very high levels of optimism may lack critical-thinking skills.

Adventurousness: Two ingredients capture this adventurous spirit: the inclination to take risks and the desire to pursue the unknown, to walk the path less taken. Adventurous people love a challenge.

Since change always involves both risk and the unknown, they usually perform well during organizational shake-ups. They are the proactors, the employees who initiate and create change. But people with very high levels of adventurousness may indicate a tendency toward recklessness.

Passion / Drive: Passion is the fuel that maximizes all the other traits. If you have passion, nothing appears impossible. If you don't, change is exhausting. Passion is the individual's level of personal dynamism. It shows up in a person's level of intensity and determination.

To make a new procedure work, to overcome the myriad of problems that any plan for change unwittingly produces, you've got to have passion and enthusiasm. People with very high levels of passion, however, may also be bullheaded, obsessed, and heading for burnout.

Adaptability: Adaptability includes two elements: flexibility and resilience. Flexible people have goals and dreams like everyone else, but they're not overly invested in them. When something doesn't work out, they'll say, "Plan A doesn't work, let's go to Plan B." Resilience is the capacity to rebound from adversity quickly with a minimum of trauma. Failure or mistakes do not throw them. They don't dwell on them and get depressed but bounce back quickly and move on.

People with high levels of this trait are not wedded to specific outcomes. If the situation changes, their expectations shift right along with it. Too high of a level in this trait indicates a lack of commitment or stick-to-it-ness.

Confidence: If optimism is the view that a situation will work out, confidence is the belief in your own ability to handle it. There is situational confidence - "I know I can swim across this channel, learn this program, write this report" - and self-confidence - "I can handle whatever comes down the pike." Self-confidence is the kind of confidence the Change Readiness Scale measures.

People with high levels of confidence are generally individuals with a strong sense of self-esteem. But more specifically, they believe they can make any situation work for them. Very high levels of confidence may also indicate a cocky, know-it-all attitude and lack of receptivity to feedback.

Are You Ready? Sticky Note

Tolerance for Ambiguity: The one certainty surrounding change is that it spawns uncertainty. No matter how carefully you plan it, there is always an element of indefiniteness or ambiguity.

Without a healthy tolerance for ambiguity, change is not only uncomfortable; it's downright scary. But too much tolerance can also get you in trouble. You may have difficulty finishing tasks and making decisions.

You’ll probably find you have higher levels of some traits and lower levels on others. This is typical of most profiles and indicates that some of your Change-Readiness traits are more developed than others.

The Change-Readiness Scale is also useful in coaching teams to determine which players to pick and what roles to put them in. Adventurers are great starters, resourceful people are excellent problem solvers, optimists make good cheerleaders, and their input is especially useful when people feel discouraged.

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