We are being confronted with change whether we like it or not. So what do I need to know to be able to adapt? I asked a number of my colleagues who regularly coach leaders and others to do exactly this and here are the points that emerged.

The common thread coming through the answers is having or developing a strong self-awareness or self-knowledge. This means having clarity about my values and strengths in order to make mindful choices and being connected with my emotions in order to fully understand what losses and gains are brought by the change.

You need to accept your emotions about the change. It does not matter whether it is anger, sadness or anxiety, if you don't welcome your emotions and deal with them, you stay stuck in them and nothing good happens” says Sandra Wackens. She goes on to say “you may need help, whether it is to ventilate or to help you take a distance and look at the situation from a different perspective, you may need support.” It is good to have a friend who is a true active listener that can both empathize and help you to analyze the situation. However not every friend can do that and that's were coaching is a valuable tool.

Be aware of how our brains react to change. “Neuroscience teaches us that in a time of unexpected change perceived as threatening, our limbic and reptilian brains are activated” says Ludmila Kostandova. This in turn negatively affects our neocortex, and more specifically PCF, pre-frontal cortex, which is the center of our highest cognitive capacities, creativity and decision making abilities. Overwriting defensiveness and aggressiveness and other reactions driven by our unconscious projective identifications, becomes critical for accessing the creativity and choosing the relevant response. Understanding oneself, one’s own inner drivers and unconscious “buttons” that can be activated can help create strategies to manage limbic and reptilian reactions, and to adapt to the changing environment.

Am I clear on my values and guiding principles? “If I am honouring my values, I can make a decision based on my freedom of choice and right to choose….or look to negotiate an alternative arrangement” says James Mcleod. The key is that I use my guiding principles as a compass from which to base my decision. This compass gives me empowerment to feel that I am ‘doing the right thing’ based on my values and principles.

Am I clear on what to say ‘Yes’ to and what to say ‘No’ to? “To be clear on when to say ‘No’ requires an assertive mind-set…..where I can communicate with enough Frankness for my position to be clear and my ‘red lines’ understood and enough Diplomacy for my point of view to be digestible to the stakeholders within whom I am in negotiation with” says James.

Developing a growth mind-set allows me to be open to change
“Develop a change mindset with self-confidence” says Fabiola Ortiz. Seeking out what is positive in the change and what benefits it will bring to me and to others will help me to develop a growth mind-set/open to change and learning. Can I look at the situation in an appreciative way and be intrigued and excited at discovering new ways to operate around any given challenge?

An important aspect of this is “that I know myself well enough to understand how change will impact me and that I have the resources inside me to be able to adapt” says James.

Adopt the right perspective
The perspective we use and the frame of reference we choose to view the change can have a big impact on how challenging or easy we experience the change. “Keep asking yourself the question about bigger perspective and work on your ability to discern and analyse the change to avoid giving your attention to non-essential priorities. Learn, learn, learn” says Ludmila.

Zoom out. “When I step back from this and look in on myself as if I was an observer, what am I seeing? Is my approach logical, realistic, useful, helpful?” says James. Develop perspective:
• In the grander scheme of things, what will these changes really mean?
• When I look back on these changes in 5 years, how big or small will this have been?
• What will be the impact of these changes in 10 minutes time? /10 months time?/10 years time? (10/10/10)

This checklist from Julian Jencquel will help to go deeper:
• What is the change?
• What do I need to do, i.e. what is expected?
• Do I have the skills that are required?
• Why are we changing?
• Do I want to change?
• Who else is changing?
• What benefits are there?
• What do I stand to lose?
• Is it safe for me to suggest ideas?

“You need to be able to look at the opportunity hidden in the change - what is it going to bring to you that the old situation has not? But be aware there is a chronology – there is no way you can even think about the opportunity if you are captive to your emotions or have not taken a distance to assess the change fully” says Sandra.

Evolve in interaction with a trusted team
Ideally it helps if you can tackle the change(s) with the support of people around you that you trust. Who can listen to your concerns and also remind you of your innate strengths and skills. As well as support maintaining a balanced and factual perspective.

Change is constant so anticipate and be ready
“Lately another layer of dealing with change has become very clear to me and that is when there are multiple changes to deal with, or when the sequence of changing events is so very immediate and not giving you enough time to adjust fully” says Sandra. This calls for:
1- Knowing your own limits, being self-aware enough to recognize it is too much and you need to nurture your energy to face these rapid changes.
2- Take care of your energy. Stop trying to deal with all the changes, take a break and do whatever suits you to get your energy back not only your physical energy but also your emotional energy, your mental energy, and your spiritual energy.

Be ready for the constant and accelerated change: Listen to the “weak signals”, talk to people outside of your immediate circle. “One of my executive clients, who operates a retail business, spent many hours during the lockdown speaking with his team of shop managers, inviting also shop floor workers to contribute, on shop design, customer experience, and ideas that had not been heard so far. This resulted in collecting ideas and actions that are now being implemented with a complete redesign of customer experience as well as products & services” says Ludmila. One of the learning points for this client was the value of having such a conversation outside the crisis situation and implementing it as part of the day-to-day management.

In summary:
“We have the idea of change as an unexpected and punctual event. Life proves that is wrong. Change is constant. This has been exponentially accelerated in recent times. Our brain is wired to see change as a threat. First thing we see is what we lose. So, it is ok to be reluctant at first” says Fabiola.

We can evolve and train our brain to focus on opportunities brought by change. It seems fundamental to develop a resilience in this process. How can we do that ?
• By having clarity about our strengths and values, they are our compass to make mindful choices.
• By connecting with our emotions, they are the thermostat for the journey.
• To surround ourselves with trusted people, our crew, a safe environment to evolve.

That way we can be ready for all events and evolve in self-confidence and interdependency.

How can the PPI Network help?
Well you have just heard from some of our professional coaches who are available to facilitate individual leaders adapting to change and developing their resilience. We can also deploy an interesting tool “The Change Style Indicator” which measures an individual's preferred style in approaching and addressing change. This can be useful for both individuals and teams understanding why they can often see and experience changes differently.

Adapting to change
Self Awareness

About the Author

Gerry Buckley

Gerry Buckley

Gerry Buckley is a Managing Partner of Performance Plus International (PPI) and a founding member of the PPI Network. He has a depth of experience in management development and training built up over many years, initially in Ireland, then in Africa and for the last 25 years in Europe based in Belgium.