Leading and managing human transitions through adversity

Connecting with a diverse range of my coaching and consulting clients over the past few weeks, has seriously deepened my understanding of the impact of disruption and adversity, on our stress levels and neurology, and the importance of leading and managing these factors, from both the business and the human perspective. It reaffirms the importance of leaders and managers becoming more generous, tolerant, caring, empathic, and resilient not only with themselves, and also with others, by strategically leading and managing both the business and human transitions to a post Covid-19 world. Taking both a business and a human perspective Because so many leaders and managers have been emotionally hijacked by the often-dire consequences of their own particular series of downturns and stress levels, they often fail to realize that they have a crucial role in empathizing and supporting their people and teams to transition safely and effectively, from the pre Covid-19 world to what could become an abundant, adaptive, innovative and sustainable post Covid-19 world. By failing to focus the human aspects of transitioning from the old to the new, they are unable to help people see, acknowledge, own, and deal with the amount of disruption, dis-regulation and potentially damaging increased levels of individual and collective stress. Not doing so, will result in a range of reactive human responses – “where everything has changed, but nothing is different”. Mindset matters most Whether you are a self-employed individual, team, or organisation, the range of current adverse global problems and economic conditions, have created a perfect and stressful storm. Where according to a recent, well-researched article in the New York Times by Kari Leibowitz and Alia Crum: “We can actually use that stress to improve our health and well-being. Over a decade of research — ours and that of others — suggests that it’s not the type or amount of stress that determines its impact. Instead, it’s our mindset about stress that matters most”. This means that we are able to individually and collectively, manage and shift our mindsets, be intentionally positive and caring in supporting and enabling ourselves and others we interact with, to lead and manage the human transition effectively and systemically to co-create what might be a post Covid-19 world. Planning human transitions Planning your own and your teams’ transition astutely, starts with taking a very first step in helping them make sense and connect with their worlds right now. Doing this by letting go of assumptions and withholding judgement, and then helping them understand how disruption and adversity impact peoples’ individual and collective safety, survival, and security needs. Noticing and hearing people’s reactive responses, helps them regulate their stress arousal, and potentially creates the safe “allow space” for enabling people to develop better tolerance to stress. This creates an opening for actually using that stress to improve our health and well-being and ultimately becoming more adaptive and resilient in the face of it. We have the power to change our stress mind-sets Being generous, tolerant, adaptive, and resilient, in the face of disruption and adversity creates cracks, openings, and thresholds for inquisitiveness, curiosity, wonder and amazement about the possibilities’ that could emerge through today’s perfect and stressful storm. Leading and managing transitions as a transformation point, for collaborating to build successful and sustainable individual and collective futurespotentially affects some of the deep systemic changes organisations and the world needs right now. The three phases of human transitions I had first-hand experience and moment of truth of this when, almost ten years ago, we relocated to the Middle East, from Australia to an environment in a constant state of disruption and adversity, anxiety and stress, which I found deeply confronting and enormously challenging. I learned that for transitions to be successful, they typically have three phases:
  1. First, I quickly realised that I had two choices, I could either avoid facing my new reality, by applying my reality distortion filters and sustain my old lens, mindsets, attitudes, and behaviours that suited my old safe situation in Sydney. That collude with my old Compass Learning normal and my old ways and business as usual habits, as a way of coping with the intrusive new culture. Yet, if I was going to succeed, and even flourish in such a radically different, competitive, survival-based culture, I could choose to let go of the “old” to see and embrace my new world with “fresh” eyes. To bravely focus on creating cracks, openings, and thresholds to stimulate inquisitiveness, curiosity, wonder, and amazement about the possibilities’ that could emerge from that perfect and stressful storm.
  2. Secondly, having operated as a trainer and facilitator, I knew that I had to become compassionate, courageous, and creative if I was going to successfully acknowledge, own and deal with the neurological and psychological “no man’s land” between my old world and the new world that was emerging. Letting go of my old roles and learning to become a coach, and to understand and regulate the impact of my survival brain, and the chasm that exists between it and our thinking brains.
  3. Thirdly, choosing to begin anew, I learned to become adaptive and resilient through embracing a new paradox lens, by working with both the constraints of my new environment and with focussing on what might or could be possible to create, invent and innovate, within it.
Learning, through necessity, to adapt, learn and grow through uncertainty, by embracing a range of resourceful growth and innovative mindsets, attitudes, and behaviours that supported my new situation, and ultimately enabled me to ride the wave of disruptive change. Leading and managing human transitions Leading and managing transitions, in the face of disruption and adversity, requires more than the obligatory change management strategy and team. There is so much happening right now that we can’t control, yet there are also unprecedented possibilities and opportunities amid the fear. According to the New York Times article “In Stressful Times, Make Stress Work for You”: “Some psychologists argue that true transformative change can occur only during stress or crises. The trick is to channel your coronavirus stress as energy to make the most of this time”. Being a transitional leader and manager To be effective as a transitional leader or manager, make sure to take, enact and embody, both a well-considered, generous, kind and caring, and an orchestrated strategic and systemic effort. Being deep empathic, ensuring effective communication, offering training, supporting people through individual and team coaching, and offering counselling if required, and monitoring and validating people’s progress, individually and collectively. Leaders and managers need to bravely role model being adaptive, generous, creative, courageous, compassionate and collaborative, in ways that generously and kindly embrace transition-wise care. Supported by well-considered, inclusive decisions, supported by a good sense of timing, so that people feel safe enough to take the small steps towards increasing their stress-tolerance and resilience to ongoing disruption and adversity. “The virus and our response to it are incredibly complex. But later, we will be able to ask ourselves how we each responded to this crisis. Did we live in accordance with our values? Did we make the most of this opportunity to learn and grow personally, to connect with loved ones, and to prepare for the next time we face a crisis”? This is the first monthly blog in a series of three blogs, themed of Leading and Managing Human Transitions through Disruption and Adversity. Check out our upcoming Making Innovation a Habit Webinar on this subject. Find out about The Coach for Innovators Certified Program, a collaborative, intimate, and deep personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 8-weeks, starting August 25, 2020. It is a blended learning program that will give you a deep understanding of the language, principles, and applications of a human-centered approach to innovation, within your unique context. Find out more. Contact us now at mailto:janet@imaginenation.com.au to find out how we can partner with you to learn, adapt, and grow your business in the digital age.

Janet Sernack

Janet is the Founder of ImagineNation™ a coaching, education & culture consulting company who leads the way and helps businesses achieve their innovation goals by challenging businesses to be, think & act differently to create a world where people matter & innovation is the norm.

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