Coffee Conversations Ep. 10: Get Into the Box to Get Out of the Box

May 05, 2021
  • David VanderMolen
  • David VanderMolen
    Learning Sensei
  • Share

The metaphoric place or space where people process a personal or an organizational request for change is called “in the box.”

People go “into the box” the moment they are made aware of a request to change. Such as, a personal request to change one’s behavior via a confrontation or an organizational request to change as in a request to update software to the newest version.

Once in the box, those being asked to change pass through a variety of steps in the change process. They experience anxiety. They move from anxiety to acceptance, acceptance to anticipation, and from anticipation to stepping “out of the box” to take action on the requested change.

That said, it’s easy to bounce around the box revisiting previous steps, advancing toward action and retreating to repeat past process steps before ever stepping out of the box to act. People will bounce around inside the box to process change until they are ready, able and willing to act on the change request.

What leaders do after requesting a change is the difference maker in determining how the change is processed. If they get in the box with a person or with their people to help process the change, the change process tends to progress more positively.

If they don’t get in the box, the process tends to become prolonged for all involved and more perplexing for the one or ones being asked to change.

Brew on this…

Trustworthy leaders never require their people or teams to “Get out of the box” until the leader sees the world from their perspective.  Remember, even small change requests can create anxiety for others. Great leaders are eager to understand where their people are coming from while in the midst of the change process and “get in the box” with their people.

Reflect on this...

  • Do I tend to give grace and space to people processing change, or do I expect immediate action on the change request after presenting them with my change request?
  • Do I tend to get in the box after I have asked another person or other people in the organization to change, or do I remain apart or absent from their change process?
  • What one action can I take today to help the people in my span of care properly process change and get out of the box to act on change requests?


David VanderMolen is a professor in Barry-Wehmiller University and the host of Coffee Conversations. You can find all past episodes here.

Related Posts

Need help in applying principles of Truly Human Leadership in your organization? Chapman & Co. Leadership Institute is Barry-Wehmiller's leadership consulting firm that partners with other companies to create strategic visions, engage employees, improve corporate culture and develop outstanding leaders through leadership training, assessments and workshops.

Find out more at