Change is an inevitable constant in our lives. Sometimes we can influence it, but most of the time we cannot. What is new is the dynamic and speed with which we are confronted with change. What we need is a plan on how to adapt to change quicker and build a higher resilience to negative news, because a differentiated view of change processes will continue to produce this in the future. What will always be in our own hands, however, is our personal attitude and approach to it. As leaders, we are expected to act as role models and show others the way – this is no easy task, even for seasoned leaders. Fortunately, there are ways to adapt to change and even to use advantage of it…
A Conscious Approach to Change
The following overview includes helpful and proven methods and concepts for confidently dealing with change processes. They do not claim to be exhaustive, but are rather intended to serve as inspiration and to point to the multifaceted possibilities of actively shaping supposedly negative changes in our environment. If we succeed in understanding change as energy, which we can harness for ourselves in the form of opportunities, we are well on the way to braving the storm and using its winds to drive our own mills.
“When the wind of change blows, some build walls and others windmills” (Chinese proverb).
Giving space for feelings
It is good to talk about feelings, also as a leader. Especially when dealing with unwanted change, it is important to give space to negative feelings such as fear, anger or disorientation. As we know, emotions are very powerful. However, research shows that it is important to leave this phase early. In this way, the path can be prepared for us to engage with the change and be ready to work on constructive solutions. As a leader, it is important that we also give our team the space to openly express their feelings. Often there are already different assessments of the same issue in the team, which opens up new perspectives for the individual. It is then important to show the way out of this space and to move on to finding solutions. In this process, participation and transparency should be made possible, as far as the framework conditions allow, so that all those affected by the change can participate.
Your reaction to stress has a greater impact on your health and success than the stress itself. If we believe stress harms us, it will. If we believe that stress is trying to carry us over a major obstacle or through a challenging situation, we open up the possibility of becoming more resilient and possibly even living longer, as Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal argues in her essay “The Upside of Stress“. You can also find her TED Talk here. In any case, it is worthwhile for us to escape stress, even if only temporarily, by using it as an impetus to go through a process of change more rapidly. If we manage to come up with a goal of change that is so positive and desirable that far surpasses the status quo, it can even transform that stress into so-called eustress, which spurs us on and keeps us focused on the goal.
Focus on values
Remembering what is important to us – personal beliefs and, family, friends, religious beliefs, achievements in our lives, have what it takes to create an anchor for building resilience in the face of perceived problems. Just thinking about it has been proven to be effective. In the role of the leader, we not only have the organisation’s definition of values at our disposal. It can also be unofficial values of the team which have been lived successfully in the past and which contribute to a positive identification with the team. They can also be our own values, which we share bilaterally with team members, for example, about the courage of a certain fictional or real heroic figure whom we admire and whose values unite us. We thus arouse energy to want to preserve this value and create a sense of community within a social value system, which gives us additional security and resilience via the group.
Recognising change as the new normal
As adaptive leaders, we see change, whether intentional or unintentional, as an expected human experience rather than a tragic anomaly that unfortunate people fall victim to. Instead of feeling personally attacked by negative events and an unfair universe, we see an inevitable pendulum swing of things. Every high will also be followed by a low – every low gives way to the next high.
Humour helps with change
And last but not least, we should also consider unconventional methods…. That humour can have a healing effect, we know from numerous studies in clinics, where from comedians up to clowns not only put a smile on people’s faces with their humour, but also give courage and strength for their personal situation by creating happy moments in these difficult situations.
Trying to find a funny moment in an otherwise unfunny situation can be a fantastic way to create the levity needed to see an annoying problem from a new perspective. It can also help others feel better about themselves.
It is important that we strike an inclusive and respectful tone when doing so. A good rule of thumb is that other people’s arguments are no laughing matter, but ego-related statements, about how we deal with things and the impact of change processes on our own everyday life can serve as a projection screen. We make ourselves approachable and show that we are carrying our baggage, waiting along through the same quagmire, but not letting it take away our lightness and optimism. A funny metaphor, such as a fictional person who has clumsily done everything imaginable wrong, can also be helpful if we ourselves do not want to or cannot take on this role. Such humour quickly rubs off and has what it takes to lift mood and motivation and thus make it easier to go through the change process.
We can state that change is an omnipresent constant that we as leaders will encounter even more frequently and more distinctly in the future. In order to do justice to our role, it is important that we first reflect on how we deal with it ourselves and become aware of our possibilities for shaping it. There are many methods and concepts available to us for this purpose. Some important ones are:
- Giving space for feelings – briefly and intensively
- Making stress usable – as an impulse
- Focusing on values – our own and those of our social environment
- Recognising change as a new normal – as a constant
- Humour helps to heal – ourselves and others
Have you already found your own ways to use the wind of change for yourself? Let’s exchange ideas on this. We are looking forward to your ideas!
Written by: Patric Huchtemeier
You create the future!
This is something we’re good at.