As leaders in a rapidly shifting environment, understanding change and supporting others through change is often a huge part of the work that we do. Elizabeth-Kubler Ross’ research on grief offers a view of the impact of change that has now been adopted as a true representation of the stages we observe when we undergo any change say in a business or a life setting.
I often work with clients in 1:1 coaching sessions to help them understand how this impact of change is affecting the work that they do and their response to issues or situations in their lives. In my experience as a coach and a facilitator, the discussions I have had with groups and individuals highlight some important themes:
- The shape of the curve is very different for each individual – some people breeze through without sinking into a low mood.
- For others with a life changing event this may be much more pronounced and for a longer period.
- What we have observed/heard in organisations where changes occur in rapid succession there is a multiplying effect of layers of change which means that people are still in the early stages of one change when another lands and their ability to cope can diminish with every change that occurs
In response to this we often prepare people to be more resilient and look for coping techniques in the face of such an onslaught – Resist Resist Resist! But this got me thinking – What if we just accepted what is…?
I recently came upon a lovely lady in the Coffee shop at a Trust I was working in who wheeled her drip into the café and sat down next to me while her husband was at the counter. My curiosity piqued I asked her (if she was prepared to tell me) what the drip was for. The upshot was that she was in the terminal stages of cancer and this was a palliative intervention. As I sat and listened to this lady who calmly told me of her journey and the impact this life changing experience was having on those around her one word came to mind. Acceptance.
She had clearly been through the stages of the change curve and had arrived at acceptance. Her physical presence was something I have not forgotten – she was the picture of peace and serenity. As she told me about her husband of 40 years and that he was not coping very well with the position they found themselves in, it truly brought home to me how differently we all cope with change.
However it also made me realise that when we accept what is we stop worrying about it. Whatever the issue is it ceases to be a mind occupier or a source of stress. So for me this is asking a question of myself when a change occurs:
What if I just accept this?
My reflection on this approach is that it is a gentle reminder that not every change is worth fretting over and where you see that in others you work with is it a question to help them gain perspective? Is every change a fight you want to fight? Maybe we all need to be a bit kinder with ourselves and just accept what is.