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DABA Change Ladder: Connection Series

Change happens. It happens for our team, and it happens for us. How they, and we, move through the change can often define who we are and the things we work toward. As their leaders, it is up to us to help guide and encourage them along that journey. It is a hard truth that we need to accept that emotions play an important part in what we do, and anytime we are faced with unwanted change, our emotions will flare and put up barriers to our movement. It is in how we intentionally refocus ourselves and help our team to do the same that we will truly stand out as strong, winning leaders.

So how do we do this? Emotions can cripple our movement. How do we connect with our own emotions and those of the team? Firstly, looking at the steps involved gives us an intellectual awareness from which we can build our strategy.

We’ve defined the following steps, leveraging steps from the well-known “grief model” but looking at it through the lens of change.

  • Denial: At this first stage, team members don’t believe what they hear. They deny that it is real or that it will actually happen.

  • Anger: At this stage, a team member reacts emotionally to what they are being asked to change. They get upset, and you will hear them argue against the change or see them visibly upset.

  • Bargaining: At this stage, a team member will begin a process of trying to negotiate alternatives to the change. They will suggest a different method or approach and may do so convincingly. Know that this can be a good stage as it will show that they know a change is happening, but beware that they have not accepted the vision and want to influence it.

  • Acceptance: At this stage, a team member finally accepts that the change is happening, their role in the change, and the proposed transition process. This is the goal you must have to lead them through it. Your efforts must be focused on getting them here as efficiently and effectively as possible.

  • The Wall: One additional thing to consider here is that there is often a Wall between Anger and Bargaining that, in many cases, is incredibly difficult for team members to overcome. This wall creates a “spin cycle” of sorts where it blocks any forward progress and, if left unaddressed, can tear teams apart. A leader must plan for it, look for warning signs, and deal with them as quickly as possible. A team member cannot be left stuck at the wall, or their mindset and lack of commitment will be detrimental to the team as a whole.

An important thing to consider and plan for is how you accept the change if it is something you are not initiating. Your level of acceptance will be very visible to your team and will sway them, creating an environment of movement or stagnancy. You must fully understand the change, your role in it and get any questions answered and concerns resolved before you speak with your team. Your confidence and commitment here is critical.



The key to helping your team move through this DABA Change Ladder is connection. Connecting with them before the change establishes trust and confidence in you as their leader and will set you up as a guiding light when the time comes to help them navigate the change. Without that initial connection and lack of trust, fear will set in and cause them to spin into an emotional whirlwind of confusion.

Here are a few tips on how you can connect as they move up the DABA Change Ladder:

  • In the Denial stage, connect to understand. Listen to them and provide clarity and your commitment to the change.

  • In the Anger stage, connect to support. Listen to them with an empathetic ear, but remain committed to the change.

  • In the Bargaining stage, connect to coach. Listen for important key points to the team member, provide feedback, and redirect to the rollout plan.

  • For the Wall, connect to motivate. Listen to concerns and frustrations to provide positive guidance and impact mindsets.

As you roll out the change initiative, set yourself up for success using our Communications Model to minimize Performance Gaps while reducing confusion, stress, and fear. Tell them what they need to know. Tell them why it matters. Tell them what to do. Then remain vigilant in your efforts to stay connected with your team. This will demonstrate your commitment to the change and to helping them transition in an emotionally safe way.

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