I have a ball-obsessed puppy who would play catch with you until she passed out from heat stroke.

But if I only have one ball, it is a futile experience. I throw it once and she holds on to it with clenched jaws. I have to fight to get it back.

In contrast, if I have two balls, I can throw one and she will retrieve it and immediately drop it at my feet then eagerly await the tossing of the second ball. This goes on for as long as I will participate.

Emma’s ball habits are the same as most humans. If we only have one thing that we know, we become very possessive and are hesitant to relinquish control. If something can be replaced with another, it becomes much easier to make a swap, especially if we trust that we will receive something in exchange rather than incur a loss.

Organizational change is like this, too. If the focus is only on taking away the old, people will clamp on and refuse to let go, but if we allow the new to be evident before we make a switch people become more willing to accept it.

Don’t play the change game with only one ball. It’s much more fun for everyone if there is a voluntary transfer instead of a tug-of-war.

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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