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Change Management 13 May 2016

In times of change, look inside for resilience

Change is such a constant in our lives now, isn’t it?

From fashion that makes it from the catwalk to the high street in three weeks and doesn’t last into next season, to what our phones are capable of, to what’s expected of us at work, to how many jobs we expect to have, change is constant - and perhaps sometimes overwhelming.

For the purposes of this blog post, let’s forget about the changes outside of work, not least because that may just be too much to handle. Let’s think about the changes you might have seen at work in recent times. A new manager, which means saying goodbye to the previous one. Teams merging. New computer systems. A fresh performance review process which means more is asked of you than before. And to top it all off, there’s a new microwave in the kitchen and none of the buttons seem to switch the thing on.

It’s not easy. But change simply is what it is and while I’m no psychic, I don’t think there’s any prospect of change becoming less frequent in the future. And while these changes are happening, we are all expected to roll with the punches, never missing a beat or letting our performance dip.

However, there are some important factors that can help us become more resilient in the face of change. In this blog we're going to look at two of them: self-awareness and the ability to reduce stress.

Self-awareness and stress

Becoming aware of how change affects you can help you shape your own coping strategies in the face of constant change. For example, some of us are energised by change and thrive on fresh challenges and landscapes to conquer. On the other hand, change can be exhausting, demotivating and an endurance test for others.

How people react to change is a broad spectrum, encompassing everything from ‘yippee!’ to ‘oh no!’ Just as your own reaction is not right or wrong, the reactions of others are also personal and part of that spectrum. Understanding this can help you do two things: know what your best coping mechanisms are in order to stand resilient, and cut others some slack if their response is wildly different to yours.

Why change is stressful

Change can be difficult to cope with because it often involves uncertainty; the how, why, when and what of change can take time to become clear, and sometimes the resolution of these factors is out of our control. Change involves giving up control in four ways:

  • Loss of competence – will the change render your skills less valuable? Will you have to learn new skills to succeed?
  • Loss of connection – How will people be affected by this change? Will your relationships be put under pressure? Will the new direction align with your values?
  • Loss of choice – Will you be part of the change process? Will your voice be heard, and will you have a place in the changed landscape?
  • Loss of control – Is this the right change to be making? Why aren’t we there yet? Are the right people in charge of these changes?

So how do we face up to this loss of control? Well, we each need to identify which of the scenarios are affecting us most – is it loss of competence, connection, choice or control? The likelihood is it’s a little bit of everything, so let’s take a look at how to regain some of that relinquished control.

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Plugging the change gap

The truth is that the answer is the same, no matter what is causing you the most pain. You need to find ways to shore up what you can, how you can, until the real answers are available in their entirety.

If you’re lacking solid information, gather facts, research, exchange what you know with colleagues. If you’re missing your previous connections, perhaps you can make new connections or support others through the transition? If you’re short on choices, stride boldly towards those that are still in your sphere of influence. If you’re lacking control, work out what you can accomplish in your world whilst change rages all around you.

Ultimately only you can determine how best to keep afloat during turbulent times. But once you have identified your triggers and worked out what’s still within your reach, your resilience will grow and your reactions can become intentional rather than borne out of stress.

Discover more about resilience on our Building Resilience page. Look through our resilience toolkit to find the tools right for you. 

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