Creator, Challenger, Coach through Change: Getting out of the Drama

Photo by Mike on

Being creative can be tough when bad news abounds.  Yet taking the creative, challenging coach role through turbulence is a hero’s journey that matters greatly as we recover and build anew.

What does it mean to be a Trusted Change Advisor in today’s turbulent times?

My colleague, Liz Guthridge, wrote a helpful post about the Trusted Advisor role in supporting the work of leaders at all levels, outlining what we covered in our session at a change conference last year that is still instructive today:

[Liz] re-read David Maister’s tips, primarily from his book, The Trusted Advisor…[a] 2000 classic.  …Some favorite things:

  • “I am not the center of the universe.”
  • “A point of view doesn’t commit you for life.”
  • “Reach out to notice, and acknowledge, something that has been held back in or about the other person.”
  • “Who am I serving by my present approach?”
  • “Assigning blame will trap me; taking responsibility will empower me.”

Liz’s full post is here.

Liz’s concepts  including “taking responsibility” for adapting to change resonate today, based on what I experienced when I met a new group at the recent Michigan Management Labor Association conference in Lansing, Michigan.  

Necessity can create a solid spirit of cooperation among what used to be old adversaries.  This used to create so much drama, as in the Karpman Drama Triangle:

The Drama Triangle
The Drama Triangle

Moving away from a victim, rescuer, persecutor mentality (The Drama Triangle) to positive new roles can create success.  David Emerald has created an “empowerment dynamic” flip to the Drama Triangle focusing on the roles of:

  • Creator  (instead of Victim)
  • Challenger (instead of Persecutor)
  • Coach (instead of Rescuer)

The full context for the Drama Triangle and David’s The Empowerment Dynamic is in this engagement slide presentation used within a management/union partnership conference setting focusing on wellness.

I met three Ford staff at the ACMP global change conference last year,  two UAW members wearing their blue Ford jackets from the manufacturing / union side, and one staffer.  I could certainly sense a new spirit of recovery and renewal in talking with them, especially from the UAW side. 


How you respond to the challenge in the second half will determine what you become after the game, whether you are a winner or a loser.

~ Lou Holtz, retired American football coach

At HR Day in Lansing this past week, I also noticed that 1/5th of the 1200 attendees raised their hands when asked if they had open jobs in their organization.  This brings hope for new roles and new thinking.  

(Click on any photo to enlarge and to rotate the photo gallery.)

What does it mean to be a trusted change advisor today?

Here’s a few photos to consider for the challenge, coach and create roles, beyond the drama, using Open Space Technology for emergent, new ideas.

Can you spot the victim language in one of the photos below?  Can you also spot the productive responses to it?

Other questions that guided our discussion last year that may be useful to those adapting to change today are:

  • How to balance different approaches, including evidence-based management and visionary, creative thinking
  • How to earn trust quickly and help time-pressured leaders navigate the discomfort of change
  • How to deal with being lonely in the change leader role while your leaders are lonely at the top

Here are some of the photos that capture those moments:

My take aways today:  

  • If you are used to structured, project management style change, make room mentally  for periodic processes that allow for adaptation and emergent learning toward creative, challenge, coach responses.
  • Consider that apathy and compliance may be the real enemies of change that fails to reach traction, not necessarily resistance.
  • Promote tools that capture who is where in the change process, or sensing to get clear on what’s changing and what’s not, in order to adapt.
  • Resistance is a signal, a resource, and is data for your change plan response.
  • Adaptive roles of creator, challenger and coach can give new life to those stuck in apathy and compliance.

There are always options for what you choose to do and not do.  Leadership is a role available at any time, beyond any job title.


“…from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel

that they are helpless, that the only role they can have

is to ratify decisions and to consume.”

― Noam Chomsky


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Published by dnrevel

Change & transition, Leadership team & organization development. Executive Leadership team coach. My LinkedIn profile:

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