A Human-Centered Approach to Managing Change
As humans, we like predictability. So when major changes upend our routines, it can be jarring. However, as the old saying goes, “the only constant in life is change.” In today’s world, massive change can happen overnight, unexpectedly, and are more disruptive than ever before. This disruption has real implications on the way we work and can also increase stress levels and heighten emotions like fear, anxiety, uncertainty, and confusion.
In order to remain competitive in today’s rapidly evolving global economy, organizations must support their employees with skills that help them adapt, maintain agility, and stay vigilant, yet calmly prepared for challenges that arise. If leaders or employees are ill-equipped to navigate emotional difficulty, conflict and resistance, the change process could be longer, bumpier and much more uncomfortable. Therefore, it is essential to strengthen and apply emotional intelligence skills that will help you and your team manage change with a human-centered approach.
At SIYLI, we like to find the opportunities in the challenge, and the challenges that come with change can provide a chance to lead confidently with compassion and support your team to thrive. Whether you are implementing new technology, welcoming new leadership, experiencing a merger or facing an unprecedented crisis like a global pandemic, three essential eq-backed ingredients will help you bring humanness to the way you manage change.
Check your attitude
When massive change is imminent, either within your organization, family or home-life, do you immediately assume it will be painful, unnecessary or have a solid resistance to doing anything differently? Strengthening awareness of these pre-formed opinions will help you understand how they affect the way you navigate the upcoming changes. If you are in a leadership position, your attitude likely has a powerful influence on how your team approaches challenges, so it is essential to identify whether your attitude is helpful or harmful. Mindfulness practice can help you strengthen your self-awareness, and once you have identified the source of your resistance, you can set up a strategy to support it.
A skillful attitude that can help when approaching change is one of openness and curiosity. When you notice your mind defaulting to a more pessimistic outlook, take an opportunity to reset by practicing a few deep breaths, and broadening your perspective by asking, “what other possibilities could there be here?”
There is significant research on the importance of cultivating a positive attitude. You can encourage your team to be open-minded to new ways of doing things by developing an open and optimistic perspective yourself. Easier said than done, right? Luckily, having a positive outlook is a skill that you can strengthen intentionally by developing self-awareness to know when your perspective is unskillful and building mindsets like optimism, kindness, and empathy. Adopting a positive and curious attitude improves adaptation to change by building a baseline of openness, helping you remain agile as challenges arise.
As a leader, part of your work is to help your team see the bigger picture and understand their direct or indirect role in it. If you choose to lead through change without including your team in the process, you might risk their likeliness to “hop on board” with a positive attitude and it may feel like an uphill battle. If you maintain your mindful, open attitude and outlook, they too may be keener to look at it from a new perspective and help contribute to a positive culture shift and more significant outcomes. When someone is already resistant to change, it is hard to find the motivation to show up fully, often resulting in exhaustion or burnout.
If you find it challenging to gain your team’s commitment to impending change, consider spending time on further illuminating the purpose. Help your team understand the big picture and how the momentary changes contribute to long-term success, both organizationally and individually.
We know that purpose drives motivation. Learning what motivates and excites each team member and helping your team members clarify their purpose and motivations can fuel their drive to support the organization in its transition. Employees are often more concerned with colleagues and organizational health than you may assume, so don’t underestimate the power of letting them into the process. If your team members feel like they are a part of the bigger picture, they will be more motivated to envision and work towards a positive outcome for the organization.
The COVID-19 pandemic tested the resilience of individuals and organizations worldwide. It brought many of us to our edge and helped us all see the blind spots in our ability to adapt to change as it arises and thrive amidst uncertainty.
Perhaps your response to recent changes was stressful or you had a pessimistic outlook. Luckily, research in neuroplasticity shows that you can rewire your response to uncertainty and stress to gain more resilience. One of the most critical contributors is a developed sense of inner calm. Mindfulness practices like “Finding Inner Calm” and spending time developing inner-steadiness will better equip you to soothe your automatic nervous system in response to stressful events. This inner sense of calm and steadiness is an essential skill for the future, knowing that change is an ongoing process, and even when we get comfortable with one transition, another one is likely on its way. Uncertainty will always be stressful. However, you can develop behaviors, mental habits, and practices that promote personal resilience.
Whether you are facing large-scale organizational change or want to prepare yourself for the many unexpected changes to come, strengthening these human-centered skills will help you remain agile and open to finding opportunities within the challenge.
If you would like to learn some of these tools shared in this article, join one of our upcoming Adaptive Resilience programs.