It seems that, in some companies, change is never-ending. People joke that the only thing they can be certain about is that more change is on the way. And indeed, it looks to me like the pace at which new waves of change hit has increased in the last 10 years.
So I would like to offer some food for thought so that, if change makes you uncomfortable , you may in fact learn to manage yourself better through change and even discover how to benefit from it!
In this article, I am sharing with you a 4-step process to assist you with coping constructively with change so it's not so draining, either mentally and physically. This little process is called VEER ™ because the verb “to veer” is synonymous with making a change in the direction you're going. So the VEER ™ model is about gracefully going along with a change you simply can not avoid.
If you are a line manager having to lead your team through a change journey, you may also enjoy a companion article entitled “5 Steps to Leading Change”. In it, I share with you the SHIFT ™ model so you can also take others on a change journey which does not have to be painful.
But let's start with VEER ™ and its four components. Here they are:
'V' is for 'Vibe'
The first stage when confronted with change is to react. And what happens at this moment is unconscious so that's why I called it the “vibe” stage. Some of us love change so we will get a good vibe. In our heads, we will be thinking: “Great, I was getting bored!” and, in our bodies, we will be feeling energised. We will have an open mindset. We may feel stimulated, excited even.
But, for many of us, the prospect of change elicits a less positive reaction. We may feel cynical and jaded that change will be for good. We may also feel nervous, anxious even. Finally, it is also possible to get angry when change points its head. In this context, our thoughs are negative, full of doubt and concern and worry. In our bodies, we are likely to feel tense. In some cases, we can lose sleep over the prospect of change.
Whatever vibe you experience, let me encourage you to connect with it . Notice what you feel, what physical reactions occur and what thoughts are going through your mind. You see, the worst you can do with change is deny it. And yet denial is also a common type of reaction: the absence of any vibe. But, if change is unavoidable, let me suggest to you that denial is a lost opportunity, a waste of time. The quicker you acknowledge that change is upon you, the sooner you can start to deal with it – for your own benefit. Denial does not protect you from change: it makes you vulnerable to a change which you are not managing in your best interests. So react, have your – good or bad – vibe.
'E' is for 'Explanation'
Irrespective of our initial reaction to change, a ll of us need to know why change is coming . For the change champion, it's to satisfy their curiosity and feed their enthusiasm. For the cynic, it's so they can demonstrate how pointless this new change is. For the worrier, it's so they can assuage their anxiety. Some of us will need details, the specifics of the change, its steps. In contrast, others will need a vision, a big picture of the future which inspires them. Some of us do not see the point of change when there is nothing to fix and they will look to see if anything was broken or at least badly limping along. Some of us will need to know that someone reliable initiated the change or we will not be supportive. Some of us will need quick answers, while others will need to be given the time to digest what they hear.
For all of us, no matter what shape or form we need our explanation to take, we will want to understand the benefits of the proposed change. If we do not, we will not buy into it. And yet, since this apparently universal need for an explanation, we are often left hungry for a clear rationale for change. My suggestion here is twofold: first, know what you need to hear about and, second, make sure you find out what matters to you. So let me encourage you to get out and ask – do not strictly sole on the corporate communication – which is often so frustrating. Find out for yourself what the change is about . Talk to collections. Especially more senior people more likely to be in the know.
'E' is for 'Effort'
Two things happen when you understand your gut reaction to change and find out the rationale for the proposed change: first, your reaction evolves and, second, you can take action. Indeed, once you have an explanation, you can process it and that mental process of assessment typically has a calming effect. Of course, if the rationeale is poor, you could also get really irritated and demotivated. But it no longer is an unconscious reaction, it no longer is just a vibe: it is a choice you make, a position you can take.
So what are your options? If the change is abhorrent, you could opt to leave. Or you could oppose it and try to block it. That will require a lot of energy and usually not worth it. The organization is stronger than you. You had better stay on the sidelines then, hoping no one will notice. But let me suppose that the ratione behind the change is something you can live with, what then? That's the “effort” part.
The question to ask yourself at this third stage then becomes: what can I contribute? There are so many important activities around change: communicating it, refining it, implementing it. Some of us want to be communicated, talk through change and will make helpful suggestions. Some of us like to get our hands dirty and will be good at delivering the practical applications of the change. Some of us are good at kicking things off, while others are better at staying the distance until it is all done and dusted.
You know what you like, what you are good at so, if you've assessed the change as worthwhile, be part of it on your own terms . I realize this may be easier said than done but many among us do not even know how they want to approach a change. If you do, that's the first step. I'd also like to think that most line managers will let staff contribute to change in the way that plays to their strengths.
'R' is for 'Roadblock'
Let me sum up : you've allowed yourself your natural reaction to change, then you made sure you understood the rationale for change, on the basis of which you decided to be supportive and you are participating to the change rollout in a way that you find engaging and that uses your skills.
Sounds blissful, does not it? Well, reality check: change is messy . So expect roadblocks. At this fourth and final step, let me encourage you to think ahead. When you are on a roll, what derails you? What are the kinds of things which you dread? In my case, I hate slippage. When I roll up my sleeves, I like things to go according to schedule. So if we fall behind, I get very frustrated and I could even lose my motivation.
What about you? I mentioned earlier that some of us like the conceptual stage: this kind of folks will get irritated by planning. How about the folks who like to get things done: they become bored with planning too – but for other reasons. Some of us hate details, other hate pandemic instructions; others love deadlines while others can not stand them. Many of us do not like feeling out of the loop … Whatever your pet hate, remember what pushes your buttons and prepare to be annoyed . That way, when it actually happens, you will be able to shake it off and not let it derail you.
There you have it: a comprehensive yet simple process to deal with change so you are able to VEER ™ gracefully in toe with your organization's new initiative rather than struggle, get stressed, resign … By the way, VEER ™ works for change outside work: try it to address a change in your personal life.