I recently worked with a team in the midst of a major change. Their company was acquired. Everything is in flux. Questions like “Who will be redundant and let go? and “What will the ‘new normal’ look like?” were frequently posed. In the midst of this uncertainty and chaos, it was Kairos’ role was to help them have a healthy conversation to air their fears and determine a path forward despite the disruption and uncertainty.
Through all of the fears that come with transitions, however, I witnessed a few universal themes play out. If, like me, you’re going through a significant change in your life, perhaps these lessons may help you better weather the passage through this upheaval.
Exhaustion – This team is tired! When there’s uncertainty, our minds go into overtime trying to develop solutions for every possible scenario we can come up with. Even if those thoughts are playing in the background, they’re still there – using up our precious energy.
Focus on what you can control – Whenever we go through change, there are aspects that are outside of our control. That’s what makes the change hard! We can’t anticipate everything. We can’t bend every situation & circumstance to our will (no matter how hard we try). For this team, helping them re-focus on what they can tangibly take charge of, gave them a sense of renewed purpose and allowed them to begin releasing details that are someone else’s decision.
FEAR creeps in – I’m sure many of you are familiar with the FEAR acronym (False Evidence Appearing Real). Times of change can skew our point of view significantly. Unfortunately, it tends to skew negatively more often than positive. When all we see is what’s not working, then we only look for evidence to support that belief. It blinds us to the hopeful possibilities this change may bring.
Emphasize wins – The quicker we’re able to step outside this pattern of negative thinking, the better. One of the best ways to re-direct negative comments, views and gossip is to ask about wins. As an individual leader, it’s vital that you lead by example. Consider starting meetings with this exercise. People may balk at first because they’re stuck in negative patterns. But the more consistent you are with it, thought patterns will shift; people will begin looking for what’s going right rather than just focusing on what’s not working.
Longing for what used to be – Even if we know a change is good, it still requires more of us than the rote patterns we’ve been in. We’re shoved right out of our comfort zone. We may have to think differently, there may be totally new processes we have to learn, or people we have to develop relationships with.
Develop a personal vision for the future – Focusing too much on the “good ole days” won’t help. It just makes you more miserable. If this is a change you can’t avoid, then taking time to find the hopeful and exciting opportunities that may lie within it can help ease the discomfort during the disruption. For this team, they recognize they suddenly have the opportunity to be part of a company several times the size of their original. Each leader is identifying what that means for him or her. As that vision becomes clearer, the practical steps of moving forward come into focus.
Change is inevitable. So whether you’re in the midst of one, just coming through one, or about to head into one, finding practical ways to embrace change is essential. These three little nuggets are what I’m focusing on right now as I adjust to the major changes coming my way in the next 6 months as my oldest heads off to college. It’s a good change, but it will alter numerous aspects of everyday living.
How about you? I wonder how you’ll implement these options as you navigate your next change?