Many of you know I have been working on how the concept of “Surrender” fits into workplace change.

My interest in the idea arose when I experienced “stuckness” or perhaps “resistance” when facing personal change on account of a physical injury.

The experience led me to wonder if we were missing a stage in Conner’s change commitment curve (contact – awareness – understanding –  positive perception – experimentation – adoption – institutionalisation – internalisation).

Conner’s Stages of Commitment (











It is relatively easy to take people through stages of contact, awareness and understanding, but that doesn’t always lead to positive perception and experimentation. Could “surrender” be the stage in between? Or as Caroline Kealey of Ingenium Communications describes it “the hinge” that moves people from head (contact / awareness / understanding) to heart (positive perception) and hands (experimentation).

And if it was, what does that mean to us as managers of change, change agents and change leaders? Can we actually do anyting about it to help people through the curve?

It struck me last week we can.  Surrender in a change sense is three part concept.

Part 1: is mindfulness.

People need to be mindful of the experience of change – the stress, the excitement, the fear, the anxiety that leads to them to get bound up in a psychic prison of “what if” –  amplifying concerns and thinking through the implications to the point where no action occurs (trying the change, practicing the new steps, behaving in new ways, exploring the new system). Moments of meditation, breathing, relaxing muscles that have tensed during the day assist the employee to experience the sensory aspect of change.

Whereas a lot of the commentary about corporate mindfulness programs is about employee health and well-being, what if there is an additional bonus – organisations that encourage mindfulness, meditation, yoga and reflection in the workplace are just better at continuous change?


Part 2: is about faith.

Unless the employees have faith in the future state, it is unlikely they will surrender to “buy-in” And this becomes the role of the change practitioner and the change leader. Creating and communicating a vision that is believable, that resonates, that the employees can believe in. They may not be able to see it right now, but they have faith it will happen. They are willing to “surrender” to change.


Part 3 is about trust.

Inextricably linked with faith, only when you have faith AND trust do you actually surrender. And this one pretty much sits in the domain of the change leader. Only in this aspect it is not so much as what can be done as who the change leader is. Their character, the past behaviours, their current actions. Can the change leader be trusted?  Do they speak with authenticity, transparency and honesty? Do their actions align with their words.


Are all three equal in weighting? Perhaps not. If you have low trust and faith, the need for mindfulness is higher (as the physical and psychological effects of the lack of trust and faith are higher). Strong mindfulness and strong faith in the future may offset a leader who is not trusted. Not ideal though. I’m not sure you get “ surrender” without all three. What do you think?  Would love to hear.


For more on “the hinge” from head to heart and hands, have a read of this excellent white paper from Caroline : Best Practices in Change Communication

Dr Jen Frahm – Author of Conversations of Change: A guide to implementing workplace change.


  1. Bruno Borghi says:

    Surrendering is what executives expect from the people they are supposed to manage. In that sense, it could be a very top-down concept.
    IMHO, pure top-down change cannot happen smoothly. Between the “understanding” and the “positive perception”, there is a need for alignment creation. And alignment creation need discussions. The executives have to move to a credible alignment position if they want a positive perception. If the executives just wait for people to surrender, they just create resistance.
    The opposite of resistance is not surrendering, but responding to a gentle invitation.

    • mm Jen says:

      Hello Bruno – thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. Yes, this was something I was working through when I first started processing the idea of surrender as a stage in change. All of my connotations had surrender as a negative thing, or something weak, overcome by force. To your point, it is a top down executive expectation. And what I hope to do in opening up consideration of surrender is pose a reframing of the concept. Surrender is simply that moment when you move from one state to another. For some that starts with a gentle invitation, for others they are forced. I would see alignment creation as change leadership. If executives know that surrender takes 3 things (mindfulness, faith and trust), perhaps they will have those discussions and alignment occurs? Food for thought!

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