The first conversation was between two women, talking about their colleague who'd just given birth to her first child. Mum was feeling fit and proclaiming it would soon be business as usual with her back at her desk. There was an element of indulgent scepticism in their critique of this new mother's intentions.
The second was a woman talking about her mother's terminal illness and how they wanted to ensure that this last Christmas would be her best one ever. Her mother was similarly determined that it would be business as usual and wasn't letting the illness prevent her from her usual Christmas routine. There were murmurings of support from the people around her.
The ripple effectThis led me thinking about how changes in our personal lives, and when it happens, inevitably impact on our working ones. Even when we're focusing on business as usual there will be a ripple effect and how as managers, as leaders we cope with the changes that arise.
With these two cases there's the obvious processes and procedures that we go through, some enshrined in law, some just good practice. Any good management tome will take you through the classic models and help you factor in various scenarios about appropriate leave, dealing with workloads etc. What it won't help factor in is the individual's response to the changes they have been faced with and the organisational impact of that.
Here's 3 tips to think about when change comes into your environment.
1. Everyone's view of the world is different.Even though it appears that we share the same experiences, our interpretation of those experiences will each be different depending on our backgrounds. Our emotional responses to those experiences will also be different, so it figures that our behavioural responses will similarly be different. What works for one maternity returnee won't necessarily work for another. What support you put in place for one person dealing with a family death won't be the template for every other employee facing that situation.
2. Adjust your responseBe aware of your own reaction and then put it to one side. To make the most effective impact in a change scenario requires emotional intelligence. To engage with emotional intelligence requires an element of 'standing in their shoes'. Unless and until you do that and listen with all of your senses you'll only be at the edges of helping people cope with change.
3. It's about more than the individualBecause we're not hermetically sealed even for those that return with the outward air of business as usual, things will have changed and that will seep into their work. It might be obvious, it might be hidden; either way colleagues will pick that up and react to it in their own way. There will be a subliminal shift as the workforce settles into a new view of the world. Stay tuned to those shifts and you can help direct them to a positive outcome.
Simple yet complex. Which is only right because that's what human behaviour is all about. Sitting underneath that simplicity is a complexity which provides a rich hinterland of opportunity when handled well. When the opposite is the case...
The key then is to be aware and develop the skills required to manage the myriad of behavioural responses people will have regarding change. As you look to the future what conversations will you be having and with whom?
To find out more about how mtc2 ltd can help you manage change, go to our website www.mtc2.co.uk