Resilience is relatively new in the change management – vocabulary.
Kurt Lewin has developed a traditional model for explaining change. His model is known as “Unfreeze – Change – Refreeze”. It explains the three stages of any change process.
Lewin uses the metaphor of an ice block. If you have a large cube of ice but want a cone, what do you do? First you melt the ice to make it amenable to change (unfreeze). Then you mold the iced water into the shape you want (change). Finally, you solidify the new shape (refreeze).
- In “unfreeze” you will feel loss, regret or grief.
- “Change ” is an in-between time. You will feel uncertainty, confusion, and questioning. You are out of your comfort zone. You can’t see a path forward.
- In “refreeze” you move into a new beginning. It’ a time of energy and excitement. Here the future becomes clearer.
Today, there is no “refreeze” anymore. We are continuously in the middle phase. The change phase.
Or you could say these 3 phases continuously repeat themselves very quickly. You can hardly see any cubes or cones in these cycles. The only constant is change.
Managing continuous change ?
Can continuous change be managed ?
A lot of leaders try to do so.
They develop change overviews. They spread change over consecutive quarters of the business year. Green, orange and red indicate how concrete changes on the field are corresponding to the change goals.
They appoint a project leader, responsible for implementing the change. The project leader sets up a change team. The change team does all that needs to done. Or it makes sure other people will. The team wants to guarantee that the change gets implemented.
Of course there’s also the “human” side of change. People will not always like or agree when leaders declare that the change is done. People need to be listened to, given attention and coached. Certainly when change becomes very tough on the emotional side.
I’m convinced that all these initiatives are necessary. I’m also convinced they approach change as something that will “stop” someday, after the project ends. At that moment a “new” period of rest and stability will start. Someday the last topic on the change overview will indeed turn into green. The change project will formally be declared “completed”. The day after however, a new change will present itself.
You need more than just some management models, to keep on doing this. Every human has his/her limits.
You need resilience. You need resilience. But what is resilience ?
Resilience allows you to return to the original state. It’s about you, not the organisation. After being stretched, compressed or bent. Resilience allows you to recover from adversity. Developing resilience is highly desirable in today’s world.
In his book Resilience “Managing at the speed of change”, Daryl R. Conner outlines five characteristics of resilient people. They are positive, focused, flexible, organized, proactive.
Resilient people are optimistic and self-assured. They perceive life as complex but filled with opportunities. Optimists believe defeat is temporary. Its causes are not their fault, but rather due to unfortunate circumstances. Pessimists believe defeat will last for a long time. They blame someone, including themselves.
Focus means having a clear vision of what you want to do. Focused people write down their goals and describe obstacles. They focus on the strategies they will use to find solutions for problems.
Flexible people are adaptable to uncertainty. They name their fears when facing new and intimidating situations.
Organized people approach ambiguity in a structured way. They creatively plan, carefully set priorities and engage in deliberate action steps.
Being proactive means you engage change and not defend against it. Proactive people take the offense and not the defense. They take calculated risks. They apply lessons learned from experiences, to similar challenges facing them.
Years of research into the nature of resilience have created a solid understanding of it. And how it develops. To develop your resilience, here are some key qualities to develop. (Inspired by Al Siebert)
- A playful curiosity. Ask lots of questions. Play with new developments. Wonder about things, experiment, make mistakes, get hurt, laugh. “What is different now ? What if I did this ?”
- Constantly learning from experience: assimilate quickly new or unexpected experiences. Facilitate being changed by them. “What is the lesson here ? What early clues did I ignore ? The next time that happens I will…”
- Quick Adaptation. Be mentally and emotionally very flexible. Be comfortable with contradictory personal qualities. Be strong and gentle, sensitive and tough, logical and intuitive. Be calm and emotional, serious and playful, and so forth. The more the better.
- A Solid self-esteem. Self-esteem is how you feel about yourself. It determines how much you learn after something goes wrong. It allows you to receive praise and compliments. It acts as a buffer against hurtful statements. While being receptive to constructive criticism. “I like, appreciate, and love myself.”
- Good friendships and loving relationships. People are more stress resistant and are less likely to get sick when they have a loving family and good friendships. Loners are more vulnerable to distressing conditions. Talking with friends and family diminishes the impact of difficulties and increases feelings of self-worth and self-confidence.
- Honest expression of feelings and emotions . Express anger, love, dislike, appreciation, grief, etc… Do it honestly and openly.
- High tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty. Being able to work without a job description, is a good role model of professionalism. Bring stability to crises and chaos. “How can I interact with this so that things turn out well for all of us ?”
- Empathic reading of others. See things through the perspectives of others, even antagonists. Win/win/win attitude in conflicts. “What do others think and feel ? What is it like to be them ? How do they experience me ? What is legitimate about what they feel, say, and do ?”
- Use intuition. Accept intuition as a valid, useful source of information. “What is my body telling me ? Did that daydream mean anything ? Why don’t I believe what I’m being told ? What if I did this ?”
- Have a talent for serendipity. Learning lessons in the school of life is the antidote to feeling victimized. Convert emotionally toxic situations into emotionally nutritious. Convert misfortune into good luck and gain strength from adversity.
“I would never choose to go through anything like that again, but it was the one of best things that ever happened to me.”
When you can imagine this quote coming from you, you are probably developing your own resilience very well.
You need more than resilience to get the change done. Resilience needs some management skills as well. There is nothing wrong with that. Continuous change will make you aware that managing it is key during your career. Resilience will make you successful in it. Without getting desperate, without negativity. Resilience will help to avoid this trap.