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Improving your skills to cope with change
Change is a natural process, but it is always met with some degree of resistance. Change Management is a business discipline that’s proving very useful during the COVID-19 pandemic – even in our personal lives. School closures. Working from home – or, for our key workers, working in a drastically altered environment. The list of changes we are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic is vast. We are all working to adapt as quickly as we can, but rarely have we faced such a large global change on this scale.
There are always barriers and challenges to overcome in the face of any change, whether it be at home, at work or – in this instance – as a nation and as a world. Change Management is a business discipline which focuses on how we can “prepare, equip and support individuals to successfully adopt change in order to drive organizational success and outcomes”. In the case of this pandemic, the ‘success’ and ‘outcomes’ desired will be different for each ‘organisation’ that we consider – our country, our government, our NHS, our businesses, our family units, our individual selves.
It is actually the employees of your organisation who have to ultimately change how they do their jobs. If these individuals are unsuccessful in their personal transitions, if they don’t embrace and learn a new way of working, the initiative will fail. If employees embrace and adopt changes required by the initiative, it will deliver the expected results.
What is Change?
Change is new. We tend to believe that the ‘known’ of today is safer.
Change involves moving away from what we know and feel comfortable with.
Change always involves an element of risk and we are all, to some extent, risk averse. A basic human need is security, and this is normally achieved by us identifying and avoiding risks.
‘Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything’ – George Bernard Shaw
Change is – and always has been – an inevitable part of life. Sometimes it’s within our control, but most often it’s not. Little control over workplace events triggers increased tension, uncertainty, anger, and other forms of job stress. We can’t always control the circumstances, but what we can control is our perspective about that change – how we think and respond to it.
Coping with change means developing our ability to learn, adapt, and apply what we learned to other circumstances. We need to build an unshakeable inner confidence and belief that we can handle and learn from anything that comes our way.
Dr. Leonard Poon of the University of Georgia conducted a five-year study of 97 active, productive people who were all over 100 years of age. He found that there are four common characteristics that influence our resilience to cope with change:
Optimism: They had a positive view of the past and future and were not dominated by worry or negativity.
Engagement: They were actively involved in life, they were not ‘passive observers’.
Mobility: They stayed active physically.
Adaptability to Loss: They had an ability to stay balanced by adapting to, accepting and moving on from change and loss.
So what can we learn from this? What if we viewed change as an adventure? What if we loved change?
Next time you face any type of change, challenge yourself to think through some different strategies, then choose one that will help you cope with the change more effectively in future.
Why not try one or more of these recommended strategies:
- Step away, take a breath, and take some time to think realistically about the impact of the change and your plan for moving forward. We often get so caught up in the change itself we cannot think clearly enough to develop a strategy.
- Adjust your mindset from viewing change as a big problem to a great opportunity.
- Be flexible; the more you can adapt to change, the greater your chances of success. Go with the flow; resisting and being rigid in the face of change will be a lot more painful. Think of yourself like a boat in a storm. Turn against the waves and they’ll swamp you.
- Keep sight of your long-term vision, not what the change causes short term. How will your perspective on this change be different a year from now?
- Be open to learning. If we resist change, our energy is wrapped up in the effort to maintain the status quo. Think, “What can I learn from of all this?”
‘The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new’ – Socrates
- Change often causes stress. Ask yourself, “What can I control in this situation? What can I do to influence this situation? What do I have to accept about the situation?”
- Focus on the here and now. Don’t worry about what has happened in the past or what could (or might) happen in the future.
- Communicate with others; don’t go it alone. Part of the fear of change comes from the unknown. Try to minimise this. Don’t just sit back and wait for things to happen. Be proactive; talk to your boss and colleagues to get their understanding.
- Improve your ability to respond to change. Stretch yourself in little ways every day. How will you respond to the terrible traffic? How will you react to trying something new?
- Be positive in your attitude and actions. Avoid becoming the pessimistic ‘victim’ who just blames everybody else – other people will only try to avoid you; instead aim to be an optimist who takes a personal responsibility to deal with change.
‘I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.’ – Jimmy Dean