Change exhaustion?

A few years ago, I attended an “all staff” meeting for a business unit of 60 people within a large organisation. It was a “kick-off” event at the beginning of the year, outlining for staff the range of activities and developments that would be pursued during the year. It followed a busy preceding year, with lots of change and lots of pleasing outcomes (from a management perspective).

The Director said to the staff something along the following lines …

If you are thinking that last year was busy and this year we are going to slow down, I am sorry to disappoint you. Last year represents the “new normal”. You will need to “get used to this” and find ways to operate successfully and satisfyingly in this new mode of operation.

In one sense, this is “no surprise”. We have all heard (and therefore know, understand and accept!!) that the pace of change is increasing and that it is not going to stop. Yet, sometimes things are changing so much, we feel like we want the world to stop, so that we can take a breath and steady ourselves (or perhaps steel ourselves) for what is inevitably going to come.

So, how do we cope with the change that is occurring around us, with the “disruption” to our lives and the ways in which we are accustomed to living, working, learning and playing? How do we go about making changes so that we are not “left behind”, possibly without a job or without our traditional role or with a diminishing pipeline of clients as they no longer value what we offer?

One of the ways is to undergo a transformation … so what is different about changing versus transforming?

A transformation entails operating with a different set of assumptions.

Whilst we continue to assume the world is operating in the manner to which we have become accustomed, then we may experience the world as a spiral of diminishing circles, leading to disaster. We may see our circumstances in negative, disappointing and threatening terms.

Often, in these circumstances, it is possible to see the world and our circumstances through a different lens, a little bit like turning a kaleidoscope and seeing things in completely different ways. Sometimes this requires help from others, simply to enable us to appreciate that there is a radically different way of seeing things. You have probably heard people say …

  • There are no problems, there are only challenges …
  • There are no problems, there are simply opportunities …
  • Some people see a glass half-full and others see a glass half-empty

These expressions are all about seeing things differently.

One of the great capacities that humankind has is to be able to consider situations in the following way:

  • understanding the elements that constitute the means versus the ends
  • conceive of scenarios where the ends remain the same but the means are different
  • conceive of other scenarios where the means remain the same but the ends are different

The latter allows us to explore new ways in which our own capabilities, built around our knowledge, skills and experience can be used to achieve different goals and outcomes. This is the manner in which individuals and enterprises can envisage new ways of seeing things and new ways of operating which take advantage of their personal strengths and abilities. Sometimes the new opportunities require some attention to some weaknesses in order to work more effectively in the new environment, and this presents us with new manageable changes, learning and improving, so that we can pursue new goals and new horizons.

In this way, we can turn a frustrating and demoralising situation into one which offers excitement and inspiration, enabling us to move forward with a new spring in our step, ready to meet the new challenges facing us, and with a new sense of purpose and capacity to contribute to shaping our world of work and to supporting those around us whom we love and care for.

Turning the kaleidscope may be all that is required to change exhaustion into exhilaration …

Becoming more brain and systems savvy … includes learning different ways to turn the kaleidoscope

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