Having supported several clients through significant organisation restructure and change recently as well as experiencing significant growth challenges and changes within our own business at Strengths Partnership I’m always reflecting on how important it is to learn how best to cope with these increasing work challenges and changes that are often unexpected.
Change undoubtedly affects our culture(s), it could whack us over the head, leave a small echo or a strange feeling, but the guiding culture will always be impacted during significant change. At which point, people are testing whether the emerging culture or disrupted culture (due to the immediate changes) is a culture they feel passionate about.
Although strategy is often the cause of many of these changes, we all know that ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’ so how can we maintain, nurture and protect, as well as evolve our culture during significant change?
I believe that individuals and organisations need to be more mindful and prepared for unexpected challenges or changes, and be very deliberate and conscious around developing their resilience to change. In order to practice and develop our change resilience it is important to try to reflect on current coping mechanisms, stress related triggers and evaluate what needs to change, where you need support, and importantly, where you have natural strengths and are already succeeding.
Building our resilience can be a tough process and needs to be a conscious one. Fortunately, anyone can develop and build their personal resilience, even if they are not a naturally confident or resilient person. By maintaining a positive mindset and focusing on strengths, your own and those of your colleagues you will learn to cope and even thrive during times of pressure and change
We have several tips on building individual and team resilience, and for each person different tools and techniques work in different ways. I just wanted to share a few that have recently been personally powerful for myself as well as my clients:
We all know that during times of significant change in organisations, people often feel the change is being ‘done to them’. Remember stress is internal and it depends on how each person views their situation and the extent to which they perceive it as stressful. Therefore, the more people find control over their situation the lower their stress levels become. Think about all the things you can control right now.
Flip your negative thoughts and patterns into positive thoughts or solutions in your mind. These thought processes reinforce feelings and emotions within you. So if you can flip the message you’ll feel the positive impact. For example, instead of saying “this change is really bad, everyone’s leaving, I’m really worried for my job” could you say “we’re going through a lot of change, and that will mean that people start to leave, what do I need to do to feel ok about this change?”. The subtle difference is instead of something being done to you, you step into the driving seat and take control. Which leads into the next tip.
Name it to tame it
Start to be your own ‘feeling detective’. Ok, it sounds weird but it works. Naming your emotions diffuses them and lessens their negative impact on you. The psychologist Dan Siegel refers to this practice as “name it to tame it.” Once we’ve ‘named it’ our brains can start to rationalize it and support us in managing our emotions in a more rational way. Whereas if we avoid our emotions, push them away and ignore them, unfortunately they don’t go away, we struggle to think clearly about our emotions and our primitive ‘fight, flight, freeze’ response kicks in. The more practice we take in ‘naming’ our emotions the less time we spend in that negative space. So how are you feeling?
This involves recognizing our energy drainers and energy fillers. Understanding what gives you energy so you can focus more deliberate time in this space is crucial to re-fuel. Equally finding what drains your energy and identifying how you can do less of this, or manage more energising activities around the draining activities is also essential.
High levels of social support have been associated with improved psychological and physiological health, such as increased self-confidence and a reduction in stress-related illness. Therefore, it’s important to consider the people in your support network and the roles they play or could play for you. What support network do you need to nurture? Who in your team can you call on? Who in your broader network can support you at this time?
In short, managing your emotions and your energy means giving people the space to think rationally, and positively about the challenges and changes ahead. Helping people to thrive not just survive during times of change. It doesn’t happen overnight and will take practice as with all new habits we adopt, so maybe just pick one of those tips and try it out for a week or so and see what starts to happen for you.
Zara Bates, Head of Consulting and Training, Strengthscope