A few months ago, I brought my husband home from major surgery that left him physically limited for six weeks. We had anticipated the changes that would happen and felt that everything was under control. But then, life happened. The next morning, I fell down the stairs and fractured my foot. But, my foot wasn’t the only thing that was broken, our plan was too. To say our lives were turned upside down is an understatement.
We have all heard the saying, the only thing constant is change. It’s true. How we adapt to the change – whether at work, at home, in relationships or life in general – directly impacts the outcome.
Change at work can be foreseen, as in the case of my husband’s surgery, or unforeseen like my fall.It can be as big as a merger or company acquisition, a change in leadership, processes, or your role in the company.It can be as minute as having a new copier and the frustration of not being able to make copies quickly.
It’s enough to adapt to change yourself, but how do you lead others through change? How you manage, support and communicate through change is critical to helping your team create successful, sustained CHANGE.
Choose. Adapting to change involves recognizing that we all have a choice about how we want to respond to change. Help your employees explore these questions: How long do you want to mourn the loss of what was? When will you be ready to take the first step? These questions both honor the fear and feelings of loss that come with change, and support them in thinking about the choices available in this situation.
Harness thoughts. Our thoughts create our feelings and result in our actions. Encourage individuals to become more aware of their actions in response to the changes that are taking place. Ask them to talk about the feelings and thoughts that are creating those actions. Then help them harness those thoughts that are not helpful and reframe the situation in a way that can help them move forward.
Assess options. There are many right ways to move through change. Brainstorm ways to attack or adapt to the change. This is an important step in feeling in control of the changes that are happening. It represents a key turning point in mindset. Provide a clear framework for the outcomes expected. This will give your team the freedom to create within that framework. Together, choose options for moving forward that are mutually agreeable.
Navigate strengths. It’s easy for all of us to make changes when we focus on our strengths and successful past experiences. Ask each person what they are most proud of accomplishing in the past, and how they could use those accomplishments in this change. As people begin to see connections, they also gain buy-in for making the change.
Grow skills. Be aware of the needs of team members for developing new skills they need for the change. As the leader, remove any barriers to progress. Provide opportunities for your staff to receive training , coaching, and to mentor each other. A critical component of this phase is to provide feedback. What’s going well? Where are there challenges? What options are there to resolve challenges?
Emphasize progress. Each week, review progress you are seeing in yourself and your team. Focus on that progress at the beginning of team meetings, and as you meet with each person individually. Focusing on progress helps your team keep a positive outlook. There will be less stress throughout the process, and your team will be able to adapt to the new changes more quickly.
These steps work for a team or an individual, at work or at home. When I realized that my mobility was going to be compromised, I had to make a choice. Do I seek pity or do I seek solutions?
I definitely had some thoughts to harness. I was angry at myself. I was frustrated at the situation. But, I knew that anger and frustration would not help me move forward. So, my husband and I had to assess our options. We would both do what we could, when we could, while adhering to our doctors’ orders.
We had a lot to navigate. But, we figured out what we could do to make things work without over-exerting ourselves. As time passed, our skills at adapting to the situation we were unexpectedly faced with grew. We learned a lot about ourselves and each other!
Finally? We were each other’s cheerleaders. Every day as we both healed, we supported one another. We asked the other how they were. We asked what the other might need.
Yes, we planned for my husband’s surgery. No, we did not plan for my accident. But change happens – expected and unexpected. And while I never want to go through this situation again, I am grateful. Change happened to us and we worked through it. We succeeded and now we are even more empowered to handle any future changes that will likely come our way.
Change is never easy – even when you see it coming. If you are unsure about how to have the conversations that will successfully lead your team through change without all the negativity and conflict, contact Joy today!