As Fall transitions to Winter in most parts of our world, we are visually reminded of the changing seasons and how change – whether we like it or not – is a constant in life. Many holidays and rituals in different cultural traditions align with changing seasons. This is no coincidence. This is our way of accepting and embracing seasonal change. However, let’s face it – these are extraordinary times we are living in. Since Covid-19 appeared in our world, many of us have had to deal with change or loss on multiple levels as a leader.
Working and living with Covid-19 as a leader
As bosses, managers, and leaders, we may have had to suddenly transition our team to remote work and/or lay off or reduce hours for loyal employees. Or we may have to restructure business to adjust to this ‘new normal’. On a personal level, we may have had to help a child get used to virtual learning, cope with loneliness and separation from family members due to social distancing, or even suffer the loss of a loved one. This combined, with the onslaught of news, social unrest, and political division has made these times especially challenging. In spite of this, many of us have come to realize that it’s not the changes or disruptions that dictate how our lives will go, but how we handle them. No matter the change we experience, how we embrace it will impact how we are able to live with it and move on.
How Can Leaders Cope with Change
We have all had situations in the past when we’ve had to cope with change. Reflect back on those times and ask yourself – How did I cope with change? Did actions and/or relationships help me? If so, how? How can you apply what you learned from past experiences, whether in your personal or professional life, to this current crisis? Some common coping tools include acceptance, positive thinking and action. Let’s go over some proven ways to not only deal with but embrace change. Afterall, if we aren’t embracing it ourselves, it’s difficult to show others how to do so.
- Acceptance – This may seem obvious to most, but for some, there is maybe some difficulty with taking the first step in coping with change, and that is acceptance. The sooner we accept the change, the sooner we can consider ways to adjust to it.
- Self-care – If the change is significant, it is very important to take a break and prioritize self-care, even as a leader. This could be in the form of rest and relaxation, exercise, time in nature and a mindfulness practice. If need be, seek spiritual or psychological help in the form of counseling, therapy, or healing.
- Plan of Action – Having a plan of action will help move us out of the shock and paralysis that often accompanies change. Writing down a plan of action helps make the action a reality. An example of this is the decision to take professional training after losing a job or in preparation for a promotion.
- Positive Thinking – How we approach change is decisive in how it will affect us. Unexpected change is usually unwelcome and is likely to trigger some level of fear or sorrow. But, as the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining. So try to look for anything positive in the situation. This doesn’t mean denying the loss. It simply means acknowledging that, amid the bad, there is something good.
- Finding New Meaning – Major loss may stop us in our tracks and force us to redefine ourselves and life as we know it. This requires both mental and emotional flexibility. For example, if we are defined by our work then losing a job could be devastating. But here is an opportunity to step out of that label and either discover or rediscover other parts of ourselves.
Helping a Team Cope with Change
- Growth and Learning – As a leader, helping your team take time to adjust to change, and then making plans together to overcome it is a great opportunity for collective growth and learning. This could be in the form of providing the professional training or development needed for your team to be able to carry out their remote work successfully.
- Support and Connection – Providing both personal and professional support and encouragement is particularly important at this time – especially if your team is working remotely. Make sure to set aside time for virtual meetings or happy hours where employees can talk about what’s going on in their personal and professional life and any challenges they may be facing.
- Goal Setting – Similar to the plan of action on a personal level, setting goals for your team will motivate them to overcome any obstacles in their work. Encourage employees to set personal goals as well.
- Lifting Spirits – Even though you may not be able to meet in person, think of ways for your team to have fun together. Do whatever you can to lift their spirits. A simple gesture such as sending them a small gift or card could make all the difference. Make sure to acknowledge hard work and any accomplishments.
- This Too Shall Pass – Remind your team that difficulties won’t last forever and that things will eventually feel normal again, whatever that may look like. You will look back on this as a time that you as a leader, pulled your resources, came up with creative solutions, and got through an especially challenging time together.
Change is everywhere. It may take away the outer things in our lives, but it doesn’t have to affect who we are at our core and the values that are most important to us. We’ll leave you with a meaningful quote from the French philosopher Henri Bergson: “To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly”.