Through conversations with business owners and my professional network, I have noticed that there has been lots of change in the last couple of months. And often with change comes heightened emotions along the journey. Especially when globally we are all going through change, it creates an emotional chain reaction, we’ve seen it clearly through the panic buying in the supermarkets. I would have described the last few months as an emotional wave pool where many people are going through different emotions at different times. Here’s why…
You’ve invested time and dollars into systems and processes, you’ve trained everyone, and your business is ticking along nicely. And then it turns out everyone now has to work from home and/or your income has been disrupted. The business model will need to adjust, new priorities and a new way of working. However, as people persist in their old ways. How will the business be able to keep functioning in this new working environment and remain profitable?
As the business owner what can you do to help move people through the change, when we are ourselves processing and adapting to this change? How can you create awareness and provide a positive way forward with minimal impact to the profit margins?
To lead the process let’s begin by asking ourselves what is our own human behaviour through the change cycle and how do we communicate without emotions taking over our behaviour? When we understand ourselves through the process, we can then be a true leader to help create awareness and guidance for others through the process.
There is a process to change and there are ways you can accelerate the change to increase its likelihood of success.
The main stages of changes are:
- Shock or denial
- Disruption through emotion
- Acceptance and Exploration
- Commitment and rebuilding
The first step in the cycle is the shock or denial that change is breaking up the norm. Can you remember when news of COVID 19 started? Were you in shock or denial?
As shock and denial creeps in, it’s important to keep your team fully informed on what is happening. Have discussions to help digest the information. People will need time to adjust to the news of change and communication here will be critical. However, be careful of the media and social media here. Always seek out facts and credible information. Try not to overwhelm people and remember they can only take in 2 to 7 chunks of information at any one time so work out what are the main chunks of information at that time that are important about the change and just deliver those. People can work out how much detail they will need to help manage themselves through content digestion, just be careful of the source of information and make sure it’s credible.
Reality that change will happen is the next phase and that’s when the emotional journey begins. That’s when we go through emotions which may include fear of the impact, fear of the unknown, feelings of anger and some even actively resist or protest against the changes. Others may fear the negative consequences of change while others will be able to correctly identify real threats to their positions. This will no doubt cause disruption to your business, and if not carefully managed can spiral into chaos. How did you feel during the times of reality kicking in? What emotions did you experience?
During the emotional disruption phase, it will be helpful to be keyed into your emotional intelligence. People may need help so be sure to use clear communication and provide support. The reaction to change can be very personal and people will need to go through the emotional process at a personal level. Providing a supportive environment during this time can be a game changer. It has the potential to become a danger zone if not handled well and the business can descend into crisis or chaos during this time.
Here are some things you can try to help support your team:
- Provide the time to chat in private
- Listen to the person
- Be patient
- Don’t tell them what to do
- Don’t push for an answer
- Don’t make assumptions
- Stay away from intrusive questions
- Reassurance that you will all try to work through it together
While resisting the change, people who remain at this emotional level will remain unsuccessful and may disrupt others in the team. It can be stressful and unpleasant not only for the individual but also for others around them. To get your business moving forward again you need to help your team progress into the next phase where there is some level of acceptance of the change and a new way forward.
By accepting or seeing the new way forward the emotional journey now moves forward to one with hope, acceptance and optimism. During this phase people need to be able to play, test and explore what the change means for them and how the new way will work.
People will gradually accept the new environment however; they need to keep adjusting and modifying to get used to the new way. Give them the space to explore what it means. Provide support and training if needed, opportunities to help change processes or tools if possible, to help buy into the new way. This is an important step for learning and acceptance and will take time. Try not to push through this phase as it will hinder the learning and acceptance. This phase doesn’t mean 100% buy in yet but provides a healthy platform to play, test and explore new potential ways.
When people have the chance to explore and understand how to operate in the new way, they can then start to embrace the new methods and rebuild their way of adding value to the business again – their way of contribution. Only when people get to this stage can the business really start to benefit from the rewards of change.
When everyone starts using the new way and it becomes second nature you’ll start seeing the improvements. If you are leading the change process, you’ll start seeing the benefits here. The team is becoming productive again and working towards the new way in harmony and the benefits are seen once again in the business. Once everyone has accepted the changes and people are committed to the new ways there needs to be a time of celebration. The celebration is an important milestone and a great time of reflection and learnings for the next change that will inevitably happen. Always remember to celebrate and enjoy the wins in business.
If you’d like some support in your business during these changing times call our office and let’s make a time to chat.