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Category: Change Management

  1. What racing around the world has taught me

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    around the world

    Sadly, it's not me that has been racing around the world - but 5 (now 4) pairs of intrepid explorers as part of a BBC programme. I don't usually watch 'reality' shows, but this one had me hooked from the start, as it quickly exposed how differently we handle uncertainty and pressure.

    The person who has been on the biggest learning journey is Alex. Probably becuase he is the youngest at just 20. All of the others have life experience to fall back on. It seemed that Alex had probably led a very easy and sheltered life.

    So even when travelling through Europe, he was out of his comfort zone: Without his phone, where normal routines didn't work, where he had to think for himself and adapt quickly, he complained, he sulked and basically struggled. His Dad (and travelling partner) was clearly frustrated at his immature attitude.

    In terms of the brain's social needs (David Rock) - all 5 elements had taken a hit: His Status (initially he was very image conscious), Certainty (for sure), Autonomy (he could no longer do what he wanted, when he wanted, how he wanted), Relationships (him and his Dad weren't close) and sense of Fairness were all challenged. The Impact of Change was huge, and he struggled - which meant his dad struggled too.

    The thing is, he had no resilience. In his cosy little world, it looks like he'd never had his relisilience tested; I suspect that he'd never had to dig deep and get himself out of a difficult sitation. The easy option was always the preferred option, and resilience is something that can only truly be developed through experience. Yes, we can raise awareness and get into good habits, (which is what my Power Hour Module on this aims to do) but it's only when we put our resilience to work, that we can strengthen and develop it.

    And boy, in 6 weeks has Alex's resilience developed!! He is diving into new experiences where he previously backed away; he's being assertive, taking the lead and seems willing to fail. He's now (generally) enjoying the trip, and is a totally different character. His dad is (quite rightly) proud of the man his son is becoming.

    Change isn't easy - especially when you have limited life experience and haven't developed resilience. Organisations and middle-aged managers need to realise that, and demonstrate a little understanding and provide help. Those who are younger and experiencing uncomfortable change need to be brave, to trust those with experience, to take the help that's offered, and to try. 

    Bite-size training on Change and Resilience won't magically transform your organisation, or the people in it - but it will make things just a little easier for all concerned.

  2. How to be Resilient

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    I’ve been struggling to write a bite-size training module on Resilience for over a year because resilience is natural to me. It’s like asking Adele how to sing, or David Beckham how to play football. They just do it.

    In trying to pin point why I’m so resilient, a number of factors come to mind:

    1. I have to be. I left home for university at 18, and (initially at least) being surrounded by strangers, I had to look after myself. There was no-one to come to my rescue if things went badly. This has continued. Though married to a massively supportive husband, it’s just us two. We don’t live close to family and we’ve moved around a bit meaning we don’t have long-standing close friends. It’s just us. We have to just deal with whatever life throws at us in the best way we can. There really is no point crying when things go wrong and waiting for someone to come to my rescue. No-one (other than my husband) will, and he can’t always do that. I must be able to get myself out of my own holes.

    2. I’m quite unemotional. Not to Mr Spock levels; I do experience happiness, sadness, frustration etc, but I’m not one of these people who experiences massive highs and lows (sometimes many times in a day – how do people cope with constant emotional rollercoaster?). I struggle to understand why people go into mourning all over again every anniversary of a loved one’s death. I mourn when the people I love die, but then it’s in the past. Likewise, I find it odd when people seem ecstatic over minor good news. Recently my car was broken into, and although I knew I should be angry or upset, but I wasn’t. I was annoyed though… my first thought was “Darn – now I can’t go to the cheese shop as planned” followed by “who do I need to tell about this to sort it out?”, which leads me to the third point…

    3. I’m practical. As is my husband. When I discovered Stephen Covey’s Circle of Concern I identified with it immediately: When faced with the unexpected, my reaction is always “what can I do about this?”. Eighteen months ago I had two large projects lined up for two different clients: One of the clients called me to apologise that it was going to have to be cancelled due to a budget review. The very next day the other client called cancelled due to major re-organisation and the fact that she was being made redundant. My reaction was to make a cup of tea, take a moment and then contact a consultancy I have a relationship with to ask if there was any associate work going. There was a little, and I was grateful for it. I can only do what I can do. These contracts were gone and I needed to find alternative work, so I did.

    4. I accept change quickly. This is related to the first 3 points. I was a bit concerned about my lack of emotion, but then realised very recently that I simply move through the ‘change curve’ very quickly – sometimes in a matter of minutes. So yes, I DO experience anger, depression etc. but they are fleeting: My (logical and practical) brain is able to quickly get to the ‘testing/bargaining’ phase and work with the new reality.

    I’m still not sure how to put this into a bite-size training module, but later in the year when I have less commissioned work, I will try.

  3. Brexit - The Mother of all Change

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    Firstly, I'm not going to use this blog as a way to express my own political views or feelings about the decision of the UK to leave Europe, so you can all relax.

    Instead, I'm going to focus on the reactions to that decision: Within households, workplaces, social media sites, more traditional media and thoughout government, the Reaction to Change (Grief) curve could not be clearly illustrated. Those who wanted to remin feel angry. Those who voted to leave feel shock. These are strong emotions and whilst these emotions are so raw, we can't act rationally. We need time to process what's happened, and to work out what that means for us (not what politicians or biased press will have us believe it will mean for us). When we've processed that, we can start to THINK about what the change means as opposed to FEELING it.

    Once we've thought about it, properly, we can start to think about behaviours, and what we can do now to make things better for ourselves, and make this decision work.

    This is one of the biggest and most fundamental changes I've ever experienced. Other big changes in my life - having children, setting up a business, moving across the country have all had a lot of preparation time and that makes things easier. Big changes without proper preparation are always going to be harder.

    Within organisations, there are rarely changes on this scale, and when there are, they are usually planned, controlled and managed with one message being clear, as opposed to multiple conflicting ones flying around. But people still feel shock, anger, depression and confusion, as well as maybe a little excitement, curiosity and hope. During this emotive phase, there will be conflict: It's normal and can be healthy as long as it's managed and doesn't become personal or damaging. With time and support, people adapt. Without either, the change will be destructive. Therefore, managers need to understand what happens to people as they experience change, and be able to provide the right sort of support at the right time.

    As this topic is so 'hot' right now, if you buy both Change training modules; Manage The Impact of Change and Handle Resistance to Change in the next 4 weeks, we will send you our Module on Managing Conflict free of charge. (Offer ends 22nd July 2016, Manage conflict sent via email once payment for Change Modules is made).

  4. Resistance to Change - It's Normal!

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    Anyone who knows me personally, or has read a number of my blogs, will know that I LOVE Zumba.

    Last year when my then Zumba Instructor decided to stop teaching it in favour of a form of glow-in-the-dark 'rave' aerobics, I found another Zumba class...and I was very happy doing what I loved doing twice a week.

    However, times change. New things come along and some people get bored easily. Now my new instructor decided to drop one of the Zumba classes in favour of Clubbercise. Devastated may be strong word, but I was really saddened by this. Afterall, I'd been here before. I'd tried the alternative and I didn't like it. 

    I realised that I was going through the classic reaction to change (grief) curve which is covered in our 'Manage the Impact of Change' Power Hour.

     change curve

    At first, I tried to ignore the facebook messages that cubbercise was coming soon (immobilisation). Even when the instructor went on her course, I convinced myself that she would do classes on a different day. This new-fangled nonsense wouldn't affect me (sounds like denial doesn't it?). Then she announced that my class was being replaced. Anger! My immediate reaction was "Well, I'll find another class", "I won't go on principle, then she'll HAVE to switch it back to Zumba". I'd tried this sort of thing before and didn't like it. However, I soon found that alternative classes were either on at times I couldn't get to them, or were run by instructors that simply aren't energetic enough for me. So...that helped me towards 'bargaining'. Maybe this class would be different to the one I'd tried before. It was being run by a different person afterall. So I convinced myself that I would attend 2 classes, just to support the instructor, and find out if it was going to be as bad as I expected.

    So I went. Trying to keep an open mind, but struggling. BUT because I knew I was going through the change curve I was able to keep my feelings in perspective.

    The class was OK. Better than I expected. So, I find myself hitting 'depression' - that Zumba is unlikely to be reinstated, at the same time as 'testing' - I'm genuinely giving Clubbercise a go.

    So why is it so hard to adapt to change?


    In our 'Handle Resistance to Change' Power Hour we explore how resistance to change is often due to us experiencing a loss of some sort. We explore 5 typical losses that are often the underlying the reason for resistance. I took a look at them. Maybe my resistance was due to a loss of security (familiarity) or status (I'm good at it) - but whilst these may be a factor, they aren't the main reason. The main reason is that I really REALLY enjoy Zumba. I love the variety of music, I love the routines. So maybe this should also be taken into account when we meet resistance to change: Enjoyment. Enjoyment is something we feel - It can't be rationalised, reasoned with, or explained away. So maybe when managers need to introduce change that takes away people's enjoyment, they perhaps need to consider this in their approach. Accept how people feel, be empathetic, give them time, find similarities between what is new and what is old (even though the music is different, around half the moves are the same in Clubbercise, which helps a bit), be supportive but accept that sometimes people won't be willing to make the chance and they will look for satisfaction elsewhere.

  5. Three Positive Things

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    Last week my lovely sister invited to share three positive things each day for five days on facebook. This was quite easy for me. I describe myself as a realist, but actually I’m an optimist with a sprinkling of cynicism.

    Even on very ordinary (and if I’m honest) quite dull days it was good to focus on the positive things that happened. When we focus on what’s good, we see more of what’s good, and our world becomes a better place. I was even planning to make good things happen so I had something to post about!

    It made me wonder, in our very busy, fast-paced lives where instant gratification is king, how often do we stop. To pause. To reflect?

    By taking time to reflect we actively think about what has made us happy/sad that day. What we achieved and what we didn’t. What we did well, and where we let ourselves down.

    From this reflection, should come some sort of conclusion (or even enlightenment), and from that we can plan to get more of what we want and less of what we don’t; to achieve more success and less failure; to do more of what makes us happy and less of what doesn’t. In other words, to grow and develop.

    learning cycle

    Doesn’t this sound a lot like the learning cycle?

    We have slowly slipped into a habit of act-react, almost completely missing out the reflection and conceptualisation phases of learning. If we don’t take time to reflect and think, how will we ever learn from the lessons that life teaches us? How will we ever get off of the hamster wheel that many people find themselves in?

    Reflecting on three positive things is such a great and simple habit to get into, I’m continuing to do it…although not on facebook, and I think that you should too.

  6. Climb every mountain... the easy way

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    Last week we took a short camping trip to Snowdonia. Beautiful part of the world, and (for once) the British weather behaved itself. Whilst there, it seemed only natural that we should climb up the second tallest mountain in Britain... or so me and my husband thought.

    The kids didn't see the need the way we did. We saw a challenge to be met. I also saw the opportunity to burn over 1000 calories, and he saw the opportunity to complete a challenge he set for his youth, but never got around to doing. We were up for it. Our kids however needed convincing. 

    "Why do we have to walk up a mountain?" they whined. 

    "Because it's there! It's a challenge!" we enthused. "Think of how pleased you'll feel when you get to the top".

    "We can get a train to the top" they quite rightly pointed out. 

    Hmm. Another tactic was required. So, to our son we said "No-one else in your class has walked up a mountain. You'll be the only one", at which point he was on board (our son is quite a competitive character!).

    Our daughter isn't so easily fooled, so we resorted to old-fashioned bribery "Get to the top without whining and there's a double-scoop ice cream PLUS flake in it for you". She was off like a mountain goat and we couldn't keep up!

    That's the thing with motivation. It's very personal. We all walked up Snowdon (in quite a credible 3 hours), but we all had different reasons for doing it.

    When managers and leaders need to persuade people to do things at work, a single approach won't work. You need to consider the challenge from a number of different perspectives, and help each person find their own reasons for doing what you ask. Learning to influence people is vital to success in ANY management role, and very many others. Taking time to motivate and engage people so that they WANT to do something makes the journey a lot easier too. Why not check out our bite-size training sessions on influencing people, and motivating and engaging people to help make your uphill journeys a bit less of a struggle?


  7. Like Chalk and Cheese - Our Reactions to Change

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    cheeseI recently read "Who moved my cheese?" which is a classic tale, captured by Spencer Johnson, that describes different reactions to change, and provides helpful messages to get through the times when change is forced upon us. It isn’t rocket science, but it’s a great little read that only takes about an hour out of your day. The book made me thing about 2 close friends in particular: one is very change receptive whilst the other is very change resistant.

    The change receptive one approaches new situations with gusto. He never gives them a second thought and dives in without hesitation. We are constantly reminding him to stop and think; to "look before you leap". He has no fear of the unknown, and adapts to new circumstances very quickly. He is always looking for 'what's next?' Whilst his enthusiasm and optimism are lovely, they bring problems: He tends not to think things through, he doesn't see (and so plan for) problems and danger. He has a tendency to leave things half done as he quickly gets bored and moves on to the next big idea.

    Our change resistant friend is of course, quite different. Any change, no matter how small it appears to us, upsets her. The mere mention that something may change can send her retreating into her shell and brooding for days. She imagines every possible scenario and none of them are good. She finds very creative ways to keep things as they are regardless of practicality or the facts staring her in the face. Whilst this can be frustrating, it does mean that before she takes action, things have been properly considered, alternatives explored and contingency plans made.

    For us, this poses very different challenges: Our first friend encourages us to try new things and takes us out of our comfort zone. He helps us to grow and stretch ourselves. However, sometimes he is reckless and we need to reign him in - to force him to stop and think, and sometimes we have to simply refuse to go along with his ideas. Our other friend makes us think things though and be sure of our decisions. She resists change for changes sake, but we have to make sure that she doesn't end up in a state of ‘paralysis by analysis’. So, there are times when we have to take her by the hand and gently pull her forwards, reassuring her all the way.

    We all respond to change differently. Our first friend will always dive in head first, our second will always worry. It is in their nature. We can't change that. What we CAN change is our approach to helping them through turbulent times. If you want more information on this, check out our modules on Managing the Impact of Change, Influencing People and Handling Resistance to Change. They MAY just help you and your colleagues or friends to get through tricky times.