It is no secret that change is a constant and for anyone who might have forgotten that truism, the past 18 months have provided a steady string of reminders.
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemics, with its lockdowns and repercussions touching almost every aspect of normal day-to-day life, has changed work practices, schooling, travel and social interactions in ways that many might not have thought possible.
As a result, even those fortunate enough to have avoided infection have still been directly affected. They have been forced to put plans on hold and seen their routines turned upside down. But one good point at least is that all the disruption has been an object lesson for everyone in how to deal with change. And that experience can doubt be put to good use in future.
In training courses, especially for corporate leaders, the topic of managing change is always included. In each session, the aim is to show the importance of anticipating and responding as appropriate to shifting circumstances and, at the same time, helping people grow and develop.
This is all part of “dealing with change” and, to get the best of a team or organisation, every leader must be adept in these skills. Getting others to be more proficient and productive may be a medium-term goal, but it starts with accepting the need for change and being already to take the necessary steps. These can be outlined as follows:
Though there could be some negatives along the way, good leaders always present change as an opportunity to improve and perhaps to enrich our lives. Certain technologies and other things we now take for granted were once unknown or hard to accept, but time and familiarity have shown their value.
Even minor changes can make some people so uncomfortable that they become stressed, irritated and stubborn. In such cases, a little patience and understanding, plus good examples of the attendant benefits, will help to get the message across. For instance, some people are still reluctant to adopt a healthier lifestyle by eating better, exercising more, and generally taking care of themselves. We all know that positive change in these areas pays off, so it is just a matter of persuading those individuals to step out of their comfort zones.
When dealing with any significant change, people typically go through four emotional phrases: denial, resistance, exploration, and finally commitment. The time required can vary widely, but often the inevitability of change has to be accepted whether we like it or not. Usually, the faster we do this and get to commitment, the better for everyone.
For a business leader who has to make things happen, there are four key steps to take. The first is to see the big picture by being objective, considering different perspectives, and thinking long term. The second is to contemplate the likely consequences of not embracing change at a critical moment. The third is to leave personal emotions out of the equation in order to eliminate distractions or distortion. And the fourth is to clearly identify any factors which may prevent or delay the projected change – and to deal with them accordingly.
Sometimes, there will be unexpected or hidden obstacles, so it is essential to plan carefully, review thoroughly, and act decisively.