• Lorri Palko

Controlling Change

If everything seems under control, you're just not going fast enough.” ~ Mario Andretti

This quote reminds me of my 95-year-old mom’s story about the time she got pulled over while driving on the highway with a learner’s permit. As she passed a policeman she remarked, “He’s not going to get me for going too fast.” A few minutes later glancing in her rearview mirror, she saw the flashing red lights. After pulling over she nervously rolled down the window wondering what she had done wrong. She was creating an unsafe situation for herself and others by not going fast enough!

Playing it Safe


Like my Mom, businesses can prefer to play it safe to their own detriment. There are legendary stories of those who held tightly to what worked in the past only to see a once top-of-the-line brand become obsolete. There are many situations where our need to keep things tightly controlled interfere with our desire to move forward.

Questions such as the following illustrate fear of going too fast while in fact, we end up going in reverse. Do you have a regret where you stayed in a job that provided security but later felt disappointed you delayed pursuing a more fulfilling career? Can you think of a relationship that you outgrew that needed to end sooner than it did? Was there a move that you contemplated that you put off waiting for the perfect conditions?

We are probably aware of many examples where people move too quickly out of fear. Think of people that are constantly going 100 mph because they are afraid they will get passed by. Perhaps we suddenly move on from a relationship out of fear of commitment. Of course, there’s also your favorite brand that quickly changed a product out of fear that the competition was surpassing them. These examples are the flip side of the control coin. We think we are in control by moving fast. Actually, we may find that we are being lapped.

Responding to Conditions


There are circumstances within our control while others are not. Using driving as our metaphor, what are circumstances outside of our control? Inclement weather, excessive traffic, detours, and speed traps can all slow us down. When they appear, we have to consider our next course of action. It may mean pulling over and waiting, going in a new direction, or changing speeds. The responses to these outside circumstances result in change.

It does not matter how change happens, either by design or default, we experience loss. We suffer a loss of what is familiar and what may be comfortable. What we really have lost is our sense of control. No wonder we hold on to that steering wheel so tightly.

Universal Change

The Change Cycle™ model, which has been used for almost thirty years in organizations, depicts the predictable and sequential experience when introduced with any form of change. We experience loss, doubt, discomfort, discovery, understanding, and integration. Think about changes in your life and how you navigated those experiences. You can probably recall a change where you started out feeling fearful and anxious and later recognized it was the best thing that ever happened to you. Eventually, you reached a place of understanding and integration. Even if you never get to a point of liking a change, you can learn what you need from it and move on.

Why all this discussion about change when we were talking about control? Our natural resistance to change is that we want to be in control. Mario Andretti said it best, if all is under control we are not moving forward fast enough.

Sometimes moving forward means taking risks and introducing change even if we are fearful. We may not know where the road is going to take us, but we still need to stay the course or change lanes. Too often I see business leaders exerting energy trying to control the uncontrollable. For instance, a customer chooses a different provider, an employee leaves, a new competitor enters the market, or a pandemic changes our lives. While these are actions we cannot control we have the ability to influence them by what we can control.

Moving Forward from the Inside Out

How do we move forward with our hands on the steering wheel without holding on for dear life? For me the answer lies with the work of Simon Sinek and the Golden Circle. In the Golden Circle, Sinek talks about how leaders and organizations need to work from the inside out starting with their why. He says, “All organizations start with WHY, but only the great ones keep their WHY clear year after year.” Let’s explore the Golden Circle from the perspective of control and moving forward.

  • Know your WHY. Knowing your why means you have an awareness of your intention. For a business this can be your purpose for being in business. For a leader this can be your reason for making a decision. For an individual this can be examining your beliefs regarding a change you want to make. When you have clarity around why you are doing something, you set in motion the energy you want to employ.

  • Know HOW you want to show up. In my work with individuals and organizations, we always start with an exercise on identifying core values. It is not enough to identify values such as innovation, creativity, resiliency, and integrity. The values need to be action verbs with an understanding of what it means to innovate, to create, to be resilient, or to be in integrity. We can control how we show up, and whether or not we are being true to our stated values.

  • Know WHAT actions you need to take. Simon Sinek says this is where you get to live into your authenticity. If everything we say and do is consistent with our purpose and our values then being authentic should be easy. I would argue that authenticity is not a value. It is what we do and how we do it. How we respond to external circumstances is a reflection of understanding our why and embracing our how. If we do this consistently, we are exercising what we have control over, and we are moving forward.

What We Can Control


Just like Mom, we create an unsafe situation for ourselves and others when we try to control the uncontrollable. There are certain things we can control. Knowing our intention with clarity of purpose gives us control. Having discipline about living into our core values gives us control. Consistently acting from the inside out reflecting our intentions and values gives us control.

When you align your intentions, values, and actions, you will not have the pedal to the metal or your foot on the brake. You will be going at a cruising speed that keeps you moving forward at just the right pace.

Let Lorri work with you to understand the how to manage organizational change effectively, for your own success and the success of your teams. Find out how.

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