As a species, it’s fair to say we’re pretty adaptable.
When our early ancestors migrated out of Africa, they faced numerous challenges and dangers in hostile new environments. Their ability to deal with change and overcome adversity time and time again is the reason we’re all here today. Change, it seems, is in our very DNA.
Yet strangely, it’s something we still struggle to come to terms with.
In some ways, the speed of modern life has equipped us more than ever to adapt to new circumstances. We live in an age where the latest innovation and technological advancement feels like it’s never more than a week away.
But by and large, we’re creatures of habit. There are certain areas of life where we still take comfort in stability and would really rather prefer things to stay just as they are.
The 21st century workplace
One of the places we seek this stability is at work. Habit and routine form a large part of our working lives. So, when businesses decide to shake things up, it’s unsurprising that people struggle to adapt.
And while change in business has always happened, we’re undoubtedly living in an era when it seems to be rapidly accelerating.
Technology has had a huge impact on how we work. Companies are increasingly relying on mobile workforces, using FaceTime for meetings, acquiring “employee monitoring software” and implementing CRM systems to track and collate customer data.
People are more than aware that change is inevitable.
To get down to the specifics of what organizational alterations people envisaged over the next few years, ISS and CIFS carried out a survey that quizzed employees across 56 countries.
Here’s a snapshot of the study’s key findings:
Clearly, people were aware that certain changes might take place in the near future. Just about anyone quizzed like this would guess their company would be operating differently in the near future.
Yet despite knowing and predicting what might lie ahead, employees still find transition bewildering and demanding when it actually happens.
Why people struggle to cope with change
There’s a pretty consistent process we go through during periods of transition, which can be seen via ‘the change curve’ graph below.
Early on, there’s a sense of denial, often swiftly followed by anger. During this stage, we often fall back into our comfort zone. We look for solace in the places we feel safe and protected. Like the proverbial tortoise ducking it’s head into its shell, we go into a kind of safety mode.
This “Comfort Zone” becomes our safe haven and we lose the courage to develop. When it comes to the workplace, this reaction can happen for a whole number of reasons:
- We don’t want to be seen failing
- We’re scared to draw attention to ourselves at a time when our basic need for stability is threatened.
- Our self-limiting belief system
So, rather than doing the very things that are necessary to improve a situation, we’ll invariably try to protect what we already have.
But these responses to change are, to some extent, avoidable. A manager who intervenes at the right stage, and in the right way, can dramatically alter a person’s reaction to shifting circumstances.
Succeeding through change
Ultimately, managers need to lead by example.
This means embracing change and showing how it presents an opportunity, rather than a threat. By opening up peoples’ minds to new possibilities, it’s possible to show a path to making things better.
Of course, employees value honesty. Faking it or trying to shield people from the truth isn’t the way to go. But by being brave enough to embrace change, rather than ‘battening down the hatches’ and waiting for the storm to pass, manages can actually turn a set of challenging circumstances into a transformative and positive experience.
How to help people through change
Change in business comes in many forms. But if you’re looking to coach people through a period of transition, here are our 5 guiding principles:-
- Contextualise :- why is the change necessary, what is the intended outcome, how will the business look, what will the culture be like? What is the vision for the business?
- Communicate: – Be transparent and sensitive. Have an open door policy so people feel they can discuss how they’re feeling and be sure to actively listen to feedback. Understand the differences in people and their personality types so you.
- Collaborate :- Involve employees during decision-making so they feel engaged and involved in the changes you’re making.
- Coach through change :- Highlight an employee’s strengths to show how they can contribute to the new company direction / adapt to a new job role. Upskill your management teams in how to positively coach their teams through change. Encourage innovative thinking and personal development. Understand the differences in people and their personality types to understand how to maximise the coaching effect.
- Culture :- how will the change affect the culture in the company? What are your cultural pillars? How do these translate into behaviours in the business?
Courage through Change
At Imagine !f, we’ve produced a change coaching process that’s specifically aimed at managing the human side of change in business.
This model can be used in any work environment, and can bring about some pretty amazing results.
At its heart, it involves giving people a sense of control over their situation, helps them to focus on the possibilities available to them and gives them the courage to explore their own potential.
In all its many guises, that’s really what dealing with change is all about.
It’s about accepting fear, showing courage and looking to the future – because that’s where success truly lies.
If you want to know more we’d love to hear from you. Drop us an email.