The Power to Thrive Through Change


PACEsetters’s global study of over 2,000 leaders revealed that CEOs are markedly concerned with the ability to adapt to a rapidly changing world, and figuring out how to lead organizations ill prepared to effectively deal with those changes. The study found that more than 75% of employees within organizations had experienced major change in the last year. These included mergers and acquisitions, restructuring, downsizing, and outsourcing of jobs.

As a leader, you can’t always foretell what changes lie ahead, but you can increase the capability of your organization to deal with an uncertain future. To do that, you’ll need to develop a thriving mindset, one that factors in purpose, attitude, connections (relationships), and energy.

Whether you call it a thriving mindset or not, you’re probably used to helping your direct reports develop their skills. By intentionally applying thriving mindset techniques to your work with others, you can succeed in decreasing their reliance on you. With the right plan, you can help employees become resilient, stay grounded during times of ambiguity and learn how to remain purposeful with an optimistic attitude. This way, together, you can do more than just press through uncertainty; you can thrive through it.

Here are four foundations to develop your people on:

  1. Purpose.Elisabeth Kubler-Ross discovered the 5-stages of grief and loss that accompany change, based on the revolutionary scientific concept of remaining purposeful. Purpose is defined as a central, self-organizing life aim. Central in that if purpose is present, it becomes a predominant theme of a person’s identity. Purpose is self-organizing. It provides a framework for systematic behavior patterns in everyday life. Self-organization should be evident in the objectives people create to adapt to change when confronted with competing options of how to allocate finite resources such as time and energy.

The ability to self-organize through a well-defined sense of purpose creates a self-sustained ability to take personal responsibility for creating positive change. That purpose motivates a person to dedicate resources in productive directions and toward specific goals to avoid the problem of scattered thinking that often accompanies change. Adaptive goals and their desired outcomes are an outgrowth of a purposeful mindset.

So as a leaders, make the goal of your work in times of change to provide information and course corrections. Then use that knowledge to identify a purposeful approach for everyone involved. Let them know what’s in it for them. For example, Sergio, the director of an software company, was about to charge ahead with significant changes to the company’s direction. When Sergio’s supervisor learned of the proposed changes, he took Sergio aside and helped him to see the impact of his decisions on other teams. The supervisor coached Sergio to define the purpose for the change, and how it would benefit everyone.

To minimize any seismic shifts, Sergio decided to break up his initiative into a series of steps, asking team members to ascribe their own purpose for each step. After his team prototyped the first change, they received valuable feedback about how purposeful the impact would be to those affected by the changes. Based on this input, they tested out two alternatives before moving on to the next step, thus gaining more buy-in from the organization. The outcome was a team collaboration driven by a well honed sense of purpose for everyone involved.

  1. Attitude.Periods of change are yet another ‘growth opportunity,’ say the pundits. That rationale by itself doesn’t create a healthy attitude. Bad attitudes inevitably creep into any change environment with naysayers often saying something like, ‘if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.’ Most people by nature are resistant to change. Problems arise when resistance turns into a bad attitude.

When someone on your team displays a bad attitude, you need to remove that toxic element one way or another – hopefully, by changing the person’s mindset. As you feel your mood or the other person’s mood swelling, the worst thing to do is to stay in the situation that caused it. The 1st rule of changing a toxic attitude is get out of it quickly! Being proactive is key, so prevent a negative attitude from escalating into an even bigger problem. If you can’t leave the situation without creating a scene (example: abruptly leaving a meeting), do your best to reframe a negative into a positive or to simply change the subject.

Sometimes as a leader it’s best to ask the team’s attitude upfront. People are usually aware of other people’s attitudes. But, ask them to define their own attitude and that blank stare typically spreads across their face. So challenge them to assess their own attitude by creating a culture of self-awareness and social awareness (e.g., how my attitude effects others).

Also, you might need to coach your team members to stop and take a step back. Maybe it’s time to ask whether the current project or approach is the right one. What other opportunities would become available if you stopped working on this one? Coaching your people to have broader point of view helps put the change into perspective and can lead to a chiropractic attitude adjustment, creating a sense of empowerment. Great innovations often find their start from a 10,000 foot level once contributors are empowered to launch their ideas.

Attitude does not evolve from what happens to you, but instead from how you decide to interpret what happens to you. When that attitude is coming from an empowering state-of-mind, then this will lead to better decisions for problem solving. Successful leaders today empower their people to make decisions, share information, and try new things. Empowerment is an attitude shifting approach that leads to a sense of being in control through shifting priorities. And this leads to greater adoption of change.

  1. Connection. As you coach your best leaders, encourage them to develop their social skills. Leaders who connect best with others turn out to be great coaches and this will spread learning exponentially. One of our PACEsetter clients has a nine-month leadership development program for a select group that’s designed specifically to help current leaders learn to relate to the next generation of leaders. This firm has seen striking benefits from its investment.

Instead of defining relationship training as soft skills we call social skills training life skills, because a thriving life begins with relationship. Employees report healthier relationships with their colleagues when they know how best to relate. They’re able to recognize the potential for misunderstandings and miscommunications before they take root and become dysfunctional. Socially competent individuals are also proactive with conflict resolution and thriving abilities, resulting in less stress and more joy. And they have better relationships with their customers: they anticipate customer and market issues by asking more powerful coaching questions of themselves and their teams. This is because the just of 50-years of happiness research tells us that beyond any other factor, stronger relationships/connections cause happiness and motivation.

Developing strong relationship skills will make everyone more engaged and committed to the organization. Use the following strategies to build good working relationships with your colleagues:

  1. Energy.Millennials are now the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. Their energetic and can-do approach toward work are relevant to shaping the future of any business. They’ve already had an impact on leadership by asking for more transparency and collaboration from managers. And research shows that millennials thrive in high energy workplaces that reward performance and remain focused on what matters most. This group more than any other shuns wasted effort. As a leader you must improve your skill on how to structure and deliver direction in a way that millennials understand and can get excited about.

Millennials thrive on feedback. The more helpful and forward-focused feedback they receive, the better equipped they’ll be to handle that future when they’re the leader. Moreover, by receiving feedback that’s structured well, they’ll also learn how to become coaches to others in the organization. Energy feeds off of a transference of competencies.

The key is to not waste time. Every generation appreciates efficiency, especially in times of change. Excessive meetings and useless activities drain energy. The upshot to a thriving workplace happens when organizations focus on the top 10% of what matters most. Most people are familiar with the Pareto Principle, the 80/20 rule, but with the increasing modes of communications that rule no longer applies. The “Thriving Energy Rule” is 90/10. This translates into eliminating distractions, preventing people from dumping their problems on you (by challenging them to discover their own solutions), and synthesizing (as opposed to managing) information to look for breakthroughs instead of make-shift fixes. This requires building new roads instead of fixing potholes, meaning that a paradigm in thinking is required to think different.

Change for change sake drains energy. Change for the sake of making everyone’s life better produces a contagious energy throughout the organization. So communicate the positive impact a change will have on each person, and chances are you will produce a thriving culture of positive change.

Randy Kay

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