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26 Jan Leading During Times of Change: Fostering Resilience within Your Team

You’ve heard it before, you’ll hear it again – humans are creatures of habit. Experiencing upheaval and dramatic changes in our lives can be a huge source of stress and unhappiness, and as we spend the majority of our lives at work, changes in the workplace can be even harder to handle.

Every organisation experiences change at some point, whether it’s restructuring, moving location or a new strategic direction – no matter how much you invest in these changes, they are worthless unless your team can adapt to them, and strong leadership is key in making sure that happens.

So how can we develop leaders who are able to support and motivate employees during times of change? And what techniques can leaders use to foster resilience and positivity during turbulent times?

The impact of changes in the economy and our environment

The economy can have a bigger impact on your business than you think, no matter how big or small you are. This can also seep down to affect individual employees too, and this is where change management must be employed effectively to prevent any lasting damage.

Economic downturns can cause anything from a slower, less profitable pipeline (especially in industries with products or services that aren’t considered ‘essential’), to downsizing and redundancies, to an increase in workload for those that survive and fears of job security – all of which add up to an extremely worried, uncomfortable workforce.

Likely to be one of the biggest changes a company can experience is a change in location; whether you’re moving your office two miles down the road, or relocating to a whole new city, the effect can be just as huge to your team; potentially as stress-inducing as moving home, changing offices can lead to a disruption in relationships and collaboration between coworkers, the office’s informal ‘pecking order’ and your team’s routine.

How we react to change – The Change Curve

Everyone is different and as such, so is our reaction to change, but Kubler-Ross’s Change Curve is a known model for understanding the stages of personal transition and organisational change.

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As you can see, the path to successful integration of change is not smooth.

There are 7 different steps outlined in the Change Curve. These can be explained as follows:

Shock & Denial

These are experienced at the time when the person becomes aware of impending change, and immediately feels a sense of disbelief and then refuses to believe it is happening. This can take the form of blaming others, is an extremely stressful and unpleasant time and it is impossible to experience a positive transition to change during this stage.

Frustration & Depression

These are the points in the Change Curve at which your employee will feel at their lowest; they are likely to have realised things are going to change whether they like it or not, and that these changes are out of their control, leading to anger and frustration. This can turn to depression, a low mood and reduced energy, as they are still seeing the change in a negative light.

3 stages of Acceptance; Experimentation, Decision & Integration

Once they realise the change they’re experiencing isn’t going away, people will start to experiment with the new situation and how to deal with it. This is their first real positive engagement with the new change.
As they become more accustomed, they will decide to learn how to work in their new situation and feel increasingly happier about it, before reaching the full integration stage, where the changes feel normal and the real benefits of the change can start.

Resilience, and how it can help

Resilience is ‘the ability, in the face of difficulty, to retain flexible cognitive, behavioural and emotional responses’ (Neenan & Dignan, 2002).

Being resilient is all about being able to bounce back, to roll with the punches, and to deal with potentially adverse situations in a positive and creative way. This involves seeing a challenge more like an opportunity to learn, and to do so at minimal cost to your physical and mental state.

It’s extremely important to build resilience amongst your team to prepare them for times of change, as well as to help them to be happier and less stressed in everyday working life. Having the ability to be resilient is a core skill in stress management, and can result in lower levels of depression, being able to develop personally as a result of adversity and having inner strength that helps you rebound from challenging situations.

A culture of resilience could help minimise the negative impact of change, and help your team to transition through the Change Curve more quickly and smoothly; becoming more able to see the positives in negative situations and to see challenges as learning opportunities means that when a huge change in the workplace happens, employees won’t see it with the same fear or dread that they might have without a resilient attitude.

Increasing resilience in your team can help speed up their journey to the Integration stage and potentially eliminate some of the more negative stages all together – resulting in a happier time all round.

How can leaders build resilience in their teams?

There’s no one right answer to this question, but there’s a range of methods you can use as a leader to set a positive example to your team, and promote a resilient attitude.

Understanding individuals

A build-up of stress can seriously damage someone’s ability to be resilient in the face of adversity. As a leader, you need to be aware of the workload, personal situation and threshold for stress of everyone in your team, at an individual level, to know when they’re taking on too much and are becoming anxious and defeated as a result.

Pressure means different things to different people, but knowing everyone’s limits means you can keep your team motivated, engaged and happy at work.

Communication

Perhaps the key to just about every issue in the workplace, having a culture of open and honest communication in your team is vital when leading through change. Hiding details and keeping secrets from employees can only create a sense of unease and worry, but having open discussions about what change is happening and why will help to inform your team and allow you to address any concerns they have from the offset.

Also, creating an environment where all team members have a voice, and can offer their own suggestions and ideas, will help to make everyone feel as though they were part of a decision, and that they had some element of control over it – this goes a long way to reduce stress and frustration.

Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciative Inquiry, or AI, is a model of change management that concentrates on identifying what is working well, analysing why it is working well, and then doing more of it. This feeds the idea that an organisation will grow in whichever direction the people in organisation focus their attention – and focusing on the good will take you in the right direction.

The AI approach involves leaders asking their employees guided questions that encourage positive thinking, and interaction and collaboration between each other. These questions cover 4 key areas; discover, imagine, design and deliver. You can find out more about these types of questions here.

Change in the workplace is never easy, on anyone – but it is a leader’s responsibility to shoulder that burden and implement ways to support their team through that change, and building resilience can be a key way of achieving this.

Have you gone through a huge change in your company recently?

If so, have you noticed a difference in your employees?

To find out more about leadership development and leading through change, contact Talent Link today. We design and deliver bespoke training programmes to organisations across the UK to help them tackle their leadership challenges. To get in touch, call 0203 693 7380, or email info@thetalentlink.co.uk.

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