Here’s How to Erase the Obstacles to Change and Adaptability

Summary: Change is coming faster than ever before. The whole world seems out of control. While change is unsettling, the process of adapting from now to new is vital for future success. Here are some methods to move forward. 

Dear Dr. Sylvia, 

I keep vacillating from denying my negative emotions, staying positive, and stating that soon, all will be fine, to being so angry that I am shouting at the moon every night. 

I know I am only in charge of my reactions, yet sadly I feel like a roller coaster going at full speed.  

In other words, I’m a mess.  

Leadership means being adaptable when change is inevitable 

Therefore, my big question of the day is, “As a leader, how can I develop greater adaptability in the face of constant change? What do I need to know about being more resilient and a better leader at work and home? “

Signed, 

Scared, worried, frustrated 

Dear Scared, 

I believe you speak out for most of us during these trying times. We were sighing a sigh of relief that the worst of the two-year pandemic seemed to be over, and then, within the blink of an eye, the news from Ukraine has us rooted in the daily horrors of war. 

Leaders must go beyond feelings of hopelessness during times of change. 

Above all, we witness courage in action by our colleagues, relatives, and friends in a part of the world that has a history of much beauty and grace.  

That is to say, watching the destruction and death is painful, and most of us feel both helpless and angry. 

The best I can offer is a perspective on navigating the daily ups and downs that you described as a roller coaster ride. 

All change involves the grieving process

Most importantly, all change involves the grieving process. And understanding the stages of this process may help, at least a bit, in how you can walk through the days and weeks ahead. 

Firstly, please remember that all change, whether positive or negative, causes fear, extreme stress, resentment, and resistance. 

Everyone goes into the fear and stress of change at different times. However, no one is immune to these emotions. 

The stages of change can help you guide your team for success

There are stages of managing change that is like the grieving process. I hope knowing this will be of help to you. 

The first stage is denial. It is swift, almost a knee-jerk response, a refusal to accept the need for change.  

When someone dies, there is often a time when the expectation is to disbelieve the reality that death did not happen—most people who have experienced the end of a loved one express this thought. The expectation is that loved one/s will simply show up soon. They can be seen walking down the street or into the house at dinner time. 

Denial of change shows a refusal to look at what is happening. 

The denial often comes as a refusal to believe that change is needed at work. There is a tendency to ignore information and even make fun of someone stating that change is necessary.  

Denial can be indifference, and the denier will shrug and say “whatever” to get away from those who know change is necessary. 

Further comes resistance. This is where the folks who are always looking to the past state, “The way it was is the best way” You hear comments like “let’s not rock the boat” or “Our success depends on the way we were.” 

Resistance to change keeps people locked in old ways of thinking.  

The desire to preserve the familiar can lead to blocks to creative endeavors and often failure. Think about organizations like Blockbusters, Radio Shack, Borders, Toys R Us, or Lord and Taylor who could not consider the newer ways of responding to the workplace. 

Going beyond resistance and accepting the present challenge is essential. 

Next comes the critical time of questioning what needs to happen now. This period is when the word “challenge” is helpful. There is a shift from holding onto the past and turning toward the future.  

I suggest that “curious” is a good word to use with your staff. It is a way to engage and enliven individuals to see a way out of difficult times. Often there is relief from the sadness and mourning of “the way we were” to look at possibilities.  

Individuals become more open to sharing new perspectives and helping each other. This era is a time of collaboration and, yes, even fun. 

When you reach the time of commitment to new ways, you win. 

Finally, the stage of commitment is in place. Ideas often come flooding in, and there is a better sense of community and connectedness. It is a time when people help each other and listen with an open mind.  

Subsequently, there is the acceptance that a new way is possible and that by working together, there will be an improvement and ultimate success. 

To sum up, this model is based on Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. She was one of the first educators to tackle the stress of the grieving process. I have added the ways this works in organizations.  

Here’s to your success, 

Sylvia 

P.S. If you would like a copy of my “From Now to New” model, fill out the form below and I will be happy to send it to you. 

Sylvia Lafair

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