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Strength in people. Yours and ours.

By John Butler, VP Transformational Leadership Practice, FELIX GLOBAL Lizz Pellet, Chief Culture Officer, EMERGE INTERNATIONAL

Changing Your Outlook on Change.

Successful strategies on how to cope with the challenges of workplace change.
Todays economic reality is making change in the business world more prevalent than ever. Companies are regularly undergoing reorganization, mergers, downsizing, even joint ventures; it seems as if everybody knows somebody who has been affected by a business shift of some kind. Certainly these transitions can be and usually are an unsettling experience for everyone involved. Change is difficult. By nature as humans, we crave established routines and familiarity and have a fear of the unknown. Organizational change can breed uncertainty about your job, your status within the organization, the roles you might be asked to assume, the new chain of command, and more. Frankly however, this is the new reality. So how do we deal with change, then? Our work and experience shows us that people react to change in radically different ways, and tend to work through it at their own pace. Some will see change as an exciting opportunity for personal growth or career enhancement. Others may focus instead on the uncertainty of what lies ahead. Truth is, there is no one way to lead people through a changing landscape. We coach our clients to follow a set of guiding principles to help make the road ahead a little easier to navigate.

Knowing that you will move through three phases of emotions/reactions is so helpful.

Recognize the stages of adjustment to change.

The Felix approach and methodology calls psychologist William Bridges three phases of adapting to changes into play. In his book, Transitions: Making Sense of Lifes Changes, Bridges identifies the first of these as the ending phase. This is the stage where we tend to feel loss, regret and often grief. The second phase is what Bridges terms the neutral zone, or that time when we are out of our comfort zone, as we dont yet know what lies ahead. This is when we often experience uncertainty, confusion and questioning. As the future becomes clearer, we enter the beginnings phase, where we allow ourselves to react with energy and excitement. Experience has shown that each of us moves through these stages at our own pace, and often we can find ourselves moving backwards and forwards between them during transition. What is key here is to recognize that experiencing each of the three phases of change is inevitable and completely normal.

Experience has shown us that those who balance work and personal life during change fare the best.

Strength in people. Yours and ours.

Remember you are not in this alone.

It is important to keep in mind that this change is affecting everyone around you from close colleagues to your family circle. These friends and family can be excellent sources of support. With the rapid pace of organizational change today, chances are very good that someone in your close circle has gone through what you are encountering. Sharing your feelings with them can be cathartic. Find out how those around you dealt with change; learn from their mistakes and successful solutions.

It is better to ask, than to imagine the worst.

Try to stay positive at work and at home.

We know that when change happens, the rumour mill has a tendency to kick into overdrive, especially when information is not being released as quickly as youd like. It is important not to get caught up in unfounded speculation. If you hear something that worries you, it is best to approach someone who might be able to confirm whats true and what isnt. Not knowing is often worse than knowing, as we often tend to imagine the worst. If you notice that some of your colleagues are consistently negative, we counsel our clients to steer clear of them for a while. When youre feeling positive, look for ways to spread the mood and help those around you adopt a more positive outlook.

Recognize that not all details of the transition may be shared.

It is important to keep in mind that leadership may simply not have all the answers right now. Or the transition may be rolling out in stages, along a time continuum. That is not to say that the plan is secret; it simply may not be fully flushed-out or ready for sharing by management just yet. We know that a lack of information can lead to a lot of rumours and speculation. In such cases, we have seen the best results occur when clients approach their immediate supervisor with any questions they have. Ask about what the change will mean for you and how it will affect your job. Sometimes its better to ask, than to imagine the worst. Even if you dont get the response you are looking for, you will feel like you are being proactive and taking control of your situation.

Remember that change is occurring to help position the company for success.

Strength in people. Yours and ours.

Recognize that it is normal to feel loss, sadness and anxiety.

Saying goodbye to colleagues, having job responsibilities altered, coping with internal organizational changes, or not knowing what lies ahead can certainly lead to feelings of loss, sadness or anxiety. This is entirely normal. We counsel our clients to find someone to talk to outside of the work environment to share your feelings with; theyll be able to provide an unbiased, fresh perspective that you may not have considered. We strongly advise not to get caught up in water cooler talk where mass anxiety seems to breed.

Realize that not everything is changing in your life.

Although work may represent a large portion of your life, other aspects of your life are remaining stable and constant. You are still a friend, spouse, partner, parent. You still have hobbies/routines that you enjoy pursuing. Think about where your passions lie and consider becoming involved in your community to create more constants. This will help you put your work life into perspective and reaffirm that you are able to contribute in a valuable manner.

Try to focus on the positives in the changes.

Reduce your stress.

Try not to let yourself get so overwhelmed by work that you lose sight of home, family and personal responsibilities. Engaging in activities with those outside the workplace wont just distract you; it will also help remind you of your value outside of the office. Certainly change brings with it a certain amount of stress. What we coach is finding ways to help keep those stress levels in check. Maintaining your routines is a good place to start. Continue exercising or with hobbies, as you did before. Socialize with friends outside of work to get your focus off of workplace issues. Find a relaxation method that works for you and make it a part of your day.

Learning how to embrace change is a life skill that can help you make the best of any situation.

Balance your work/leisure time.

We recognize that when staff is displaced, workloads may increase and you may find yourself working through lunch times and longer days. Although it will be tempting to spend more time at work to stay on top of your game or to hear whats going on, our experience shows us that it is important to get away when appropriate and clear your head and recharge. Now is the great time to take that course youve been thinking about. Stretching yourself in a creative way that is not associated with your daily work can help release stress and allows you to focus on something else. Youll be more productive the next day as a result.

Strength in people. Yours and ours.

Stack the deck in your favour.

With change comes opportunity, and this could be your opportunity for personal and career growth. So make yourself more valuable than ever to the company. Offer to take charge of some problem or project that isnt working. Put forth ideas. Take on more work, and figure out how to work more efficiently. Stop worrying, and focus instead on helping the company (and your career!) move forward. This could be your chance to break out of your defined role and soar.

Smile. This too shall pass.

A happy, positive climate can really help roll out a transition more smoothly. Take time to notice the positives in the changes, and try and focus on them. Remember, the change is occurring to build an organization better poised for success. And once the bulk of the change is behind you, it will be business (albeit a new business!) as usual. Learning how to embrace the positive side of change is a life skill that will serve you well, enabling you to make the best of any situation. Your personal and professional life will continue to be filled with change, both large and small. After all, as Heraclitus once proclaimed, The only thing that is constant is change.

Use this opportunity to put forth new thinking and shine.

Learning how to embrace change is a life skill that can help you make the best of any situation.

For more information: Laurie Melissen: 416.512.7244 x438