Change can provoke a great deal of anxiety for individuals and teams, especially where there is little clarity about the pace of implementation and impact both on working relationships and practiced ways of doing things. Uncertainty leads in turn to speculation which absorbs energy and attention as individuals strive to make sense of the situation and understand “what does this mean for me?”
The content on this page has been collated to support individuals experiencing change and to provide guidance for managers leading change. It will highlight how organisational change depends largely on individual change, and that the role of the manager is critical in this process.
Coping with change
Faced with the uncertainty and potentially conflicting emotions, space and time for reflection may seem like an unaffordable luxury. Poised to respond to perceived threat, our ability to think well is compromised and with it our capacity to self-regulate. Reflection meanwhile is important to help transition through change by enabling us to stay grounded and focus on what we can influence, not what we can't.
Models of change can guide reflection in order to:
- ground us by increasing self-awareness (strengthening resilience),
- highlight the pain-points of the intended change (causing resistance or conflict)
- identify actions we can take to help us move forward (transforming resistance into adoption).
For Managers, these models underscore the importance of attentive and emotionally intelligent communication with those both experiencing, and required to adopt, the change at hand.
Maintaining well-being and resilience through change
Fostering habits to support mental and physical well-being are no less important at times of change than others to strengthen resilience. The mental and physical demands posed by assimilating new information, preparing for and participating in additional meetings draw on individual resources, even where change is welcome and the benefits are obvious. Hence the importance of consciously attending to practices which nourish and sustain us in the face of demand cannot be underestimated.
See the Healthy Mind Platter worksheet for a neuroscience research-based model outlining the variety of activities necessary for optimum brain integration. See also the NHS Five Ways to Wellbeing recommendations for daily activities to boost mood and resilience in mind and body.
Unexpected change can create internal conflict: questioning our direction of travel where planned changes appear to run counter to our own aspirations, preferences and goals for the future. Exploring our values can serve to anchor us at such times, by re-connecting us with what is important, the motivations that energise us and provide meaning. Explore what matters to you by completing the values exercise, designed to help alleviate stress at times of change. See also the Resilience resource to support your well-being.
The interpersonal environment of the team is significant in creating the conditions for change to be understood and translated into purposeful action. The ADKAR model highlights the importance not simply of what is communicated about the change but how. This brings into focus both verbal and non-verbal communication, as well as the concept of psychological safety and the effective management of the processes through which information is relayed and where conversations take place.
Roles in change management
As a manager you will be required to fulfil a varied role during times of change: keeping the business going, implementing the change, helping others through change, undertaking personal change. These roles will call upon your resilience in the face of uncertainty and heightened emotion as you and others strive to make sense of what is happening. According to CIPD, relational leadership, building trust, voice and dialogue and maintaining energy and momentum are all critical to managing through this complex scenario. A relational leadership style is one in which the power of leaders resides in the existence of strong, sustainable, trustworthy relationships with employees as well as with external shareholders.
So what does this look like in practice in the context of change?
Considered communication is paramount: to build commitment as well as deliver the change. Even when there is no new news to communicate, reiteration of information already shared will help embed understanding and anchor individuals in what is known. As you formulate an explanation of the change consider the following:
· Why you need to change. What are the key objectives?
· What will the benefits of the change be to the organization?
· How will it impact people positively?
· How will it affect the way that people work?
· What will people need to do to successfully achieve the change?
The consultation process provides individuals with an opportunity to ask questions and understand what is happening and why, and also what options they have. Above all, it provides space for meaningful conversation, and for Managers this requires compassion, which starts with empathy: actively listening to understand how the other person experiences their world, not how you would feel in those same circumstances. Compassion takes empathy a step further, by requiring us to actively demonstrate our acceptance of the other person’s experience and responding non-judgementally. This helps to create trust, in the absence of which commitment and engagement will waver, leading to withdrawal of the effort so important to bring about the desired change.
Larger-scale team briefings afford time to clarify in the round and to translate the reality of what will change in relation to new and business-as-usual activity. Repeating core messages builds understanding and reinforces the rationale for the change. Sharing a clear and compelling vision helps individuals to assimilate the new information and to set their sights on tangible outcomes which they feel empowered to deliver.
As a Manager you may be facing the new challenge of leading a remote team - re-establishing goals, how you communicate, how you support your team’s wellbeing… the list goes on. Here are some of the key activities to help support you and your team to transition successfuly through the change:
- Make a compelling case for what is desirable about the change
- Acknowledge spoken or unspoken fears, without judgement
- Provide reassurance where fears are unfounded
- Work with the team to take action where fears have ground
- Reframe perceptions to help others recognise the opportunities the change presents
- Provide positive outlets for individuals and teams to express their views and feelings
- Provide support and encouragement for all those in transition