Normally you hear me speak about the value of the change management and why investments in change management initiatives is so important to secure successful implementation and benefit realization. Either as a third party evaluating a change process, or as the party planning a change process.
But what happens when the situation is the other way around? What happens when I find myself in the middle of the hurricane – surrounded by so many changes in work life, that it’s hard to see the forest for the trees? How do I react and what works for me? I have often been asked about this, so I have decided that it’s time to reflect and try to summarize my previous learning points.
First of all, have in mind, that everyone responds to change. This applies to all people ( – and animals for that matter). The more (or bigger) changes at one time, the stronger the reaction. We all get some degree of ‘ants’ in our stomachs, when we are faced with changes that disturb our everyday routines. The difference lies in how we are coping with this teeming feeling. Whether it makes us excited. Incited. Or nervous. Annoyed. Feverish. Scared. Neither of these reactions makes us less worthy as people. Forget the postulate that only those people who immediately face changes with enthusiasm and joy are ready for change. It’s nonsense. It’s only natural to feel a reaction to the myriad in one’s stomach.
What matters is how our brains interpret the teeming feeling in the stomach. How we handle our body’s response to the change. And how we let it influence our behavior including which face we are showing! Some put on a stone face. Some show excitement and a renewed energy. Some show frustration. Some show anger. Some show a whole variety of faces. But don’t judge a book by it’s cover. The person with a stone face might be nervous. The person that shows excitement might feel deeply stressed. The person that shows frustration might welcome the change but disapproves of the change process. Our true feelings about an upcoming change in our working routines, is not necessary reflected in the face we choose to show.
Even if the company has a responsibility in regard to executing change management initiatives, I actually believe that the best way to approach changes is to learn how to help ourselves coping with the changes. And the prerequisite for being able to help ourselves is that we know and accept our own response pattern. Accept if we get scared. Or angry. It’s part of who we are. We just have to learn to deal with it!
Bear in mind, that our ability to handle the situation often depends on our available bandwidth. If we have many things going on in our lives, it may be harder to approach the change with a positive mindset. This knowledge is very valuable when it comes to understanding our own behaviour – and others for that matter.
I’m the type of person that feels excited but also nervous when I get hit by large / or several changes at one time. The unknown routines disturbing my wellknown routines tend to make me a bit insecure and groping, which forces me to get back to / focus at my core abilities and strengths. Because I know deep down inside that I will come out on the other side. It’s like when I run a marathon; before the race I’m always excited and nervous at the same time, jumping up and down at the starting line. I know upfront that I will be pitiful somewhere between 30 and 40 kilometers, but I also know that I always reach the finish line. Knowing this, I’m able to see myself from the outside while running. And tell myself to shut up, when I get these pitiful thoughts. It’s just my response pattern. It’s who I am. I just have to deal with it.
I want to share some DOs, that works for me. What works the best differs from time to time, it depends on the type of situation I’m in.
Remind yourself that learning is a gift: Do try to approach the change by reminding yourself, that the reverse of feeling hit by changes is that you actually learn something new. It’s an opportunity for you to develop yourself. And that the teeming feeling in our stomach is only temporary. When you get the hang of it, the teeming feeling will disappear.
Talk about the change(s): Do talk about the change(s) in your routines with your colleagues. It’s okay to express, that it’s hard on you. It does not make you look weak. Ask how your colleagues feel and how they are coping. Try to learn from what they tell. You might challenge yourself by seeking your colleagues who respond differently than you do. Don’t complain about the change. The change has been decided and it’s here to stay. If you don’t like the smell in the bakery, you know where the door is.
Take control of the little things: Do make a list of the current changes that you feel interrupt your everyday routines, and somehow have a disturbing impact on your ability to handle your tasks. Add some details to it for the sake of your own understanding; purpose of the change and the benefits for you. Add links to further information and tools, name of super users and so on. As always – when you get it out on paper/screen, it’s just a list. You have captured the change. You are now in control of the little things. You have built the foundation for adapting, which helps you to take the next step, moving from novice to being more comfortable in the new routines.
Prioritize which new routines that is most urgent for you to master: If many changes at the same time, prioritize which new routines that is most urgent for you master. Be aware that some routines are interdependent. It may be that if you manage one new routine, the others will fall more easily into place. You might ask your boss or sponsor which routine she/he finds most important to manage.
Find or be a mentor: If a new routine is really hard on you, you might seek out a mentor. Ask a colleague for help, by being by your side when you execute the new routine the first 2-3 times. Another choice is to offer yourself as a mentor to your colleagues, who looks like she/he needs help. Be available for your colleagues. The opportunity of having to express the change in routines and how to deal with it will make your adaption to the new routines faster and more profound.
Identify your true energy spots and make sure to visit them everyday: Learning new routines require a lot of energy. Routines that you find difficult to understand and perform, can really drain your pool of energy. So you need to gain energy from other activities, in order to balance. It might be a walk in lunchtime. It might be coffee breaks with close colleagues. It might be doing something, that you know you are really good at and are acknowledged for.
Allow yourself to be a novice: All new routines take time to learn, and it takes time to adjust existing routines with the new routines. Accept it. It’s by the book. Be a proud novice and allow yourself to pay tribute to the small steps forward. If possible, be explicit to yourself on what will take you to the next level. But don’t be hard on yourself when failing. Failing is a big part of learning.
Use timeboxing when engaging with new routines: It might be helpful to control the time you use to learn new routines. My experience is max. 2 hours, then take a break or change activity for a while. You don’t forget by taking a time-out. It only allows you to reflect and revisit the new routine with a broader perspective.
That’s it. I hope you found it useful. I will be really super happy if you would share similar things that helps you cope with changes in your everyday work routines. Let’s spread the word.