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What is your Change Style?

Three hands coming together in greeting

Written by Lynn Davies, a counsellor and workshop facilitator at the YMCA of Greater Toronto, providing guidance and direction to individuals and teams. She provides career and personal counselling as well as workshops to individuals ranging from students to seasoned professionals. Her workshops are based on some of the top assessment tools used in the industry and focus on areas including Emotional Intelligence, Change Styles and Personality.

Change is both constant and inevitable. Yet the way people react to change is varied.

Fortunately, there’s an assessment designed to help you find and understand your Change Style — one of three natural inclinations for responding to change, known as Originators, Conservers, and Pragmatists.

Originators may welcome change; they leap immediately to exploring future possibilities, and find it invigorating. Conservers may prefer to keep the current structure operating smoothly, and are often moved to ask difficult questions like “Why is this new way better?” and “Why is the standard, traditional way no longer acceptable?” Pragmatists tend to look at what is needed in this situation and work on the most practical and functional way to address the new change.

To help you dive into Change Styles, YMCA Career Planning & Development offers the Change Style Indicator (CSI) assessment. This process is a great way to identify your own style, as well as learn how to recognize and optimize the contributions of the other styles.

While your own Change Style may feel “right,” all three inclinations bring something important to the table. There are times when an incremental approach to change is most appropriate, as well as situations when such an approach would not produce the desired results in the time available. The key is to know when to adapt your change style to the situation in order to be at our most effective. For example, Conservers can become more accepting of radical work redesign efforts — even if not particularly comfortable with it — once their questions about the rationale for the change have been addressed. Likewise, Originators may come to understand that every situation does not call for radical and fundamental change; even if that is their preference, it may not be the best fit for the situation.

The more you appreciate how each style reacts to change, the more effectively you can communicate and work with people whose styles are different from your own. For example, the Conservers will want to discuss the details of the change. Be sure to ask them what is effective in the current system, that they would not want to see changed. Ask them about anticipated obstacles. Pragmatists will want to discuss timelines and outcomes, and be shown a concrete plan. Ask them about their recommendations. Originators will see the connection between the change and future effectiveness. Ask Originators what they would like to see happen. What are their thoughts for the future?

The Change Style perspectives provide a richer source of ideas from which to draw than can be gained from any one style. Where do you fall on the Change continuum? You can complete the Change Style Indicator (CSI) assessment and learn more about this very useful way of understanding change by calling the YMCA’s Career Planning & Development Services at 416-928-3362 ext. 22609 or emailing