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Managing Change during a Pandemic

We can all agree that we are in times of unprecedented change. In every aspect of our lives, change has been thrust upon us, with very little warning. We feel completely out of control! How do you even plan during a pandemic? We are living in a dynamic state where EVERYDAY the guidance from the ‘experts’ changes. In an attempt to move back to our previous state of ‘normal’, we are taking baby steps with hybrid or blended approaches; being ever so cautious to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Offices, schools, and retail establishments are attempting to reopen with new protocols. We are all in unchartered waters, learning as we go. The question is, “How do we manage through this change?

Take care of YOURSELF!

As with any loss, we must grieve. There are 5 stages of grief: 1) Denial, 2) Anger, 3) Bargaining, 4) Depression, and 5) Acceptance. These stages do not happen as a linear progression, but as a scattering of emotions over time. Acknowledging where you are in this grieving process is important.

In parallel, you can assess yourself using the Commitment Assessment tool. Where do you personally fall on the commitment curve?

Most people are probably between the level of Awareness and Understanding. We are all informed each day about the current state of the pandemic, yet there is a lot of misinformation and confusion that keeps us from fully understanding the situation. We must make personal decisions with the information we have in order to navigate each day. To move up the commitment curve you must ask yourself, “What are the things I can do to move to the next level of commitment?”.

This inflection point in our lives has given us time for reflection. People are investing more time and effort into self-care. Posts on social media from friends and colleagues show ways that they are empowering themselves, including meditation, cooking healthy meals, exercise, and family activities. For some, those long-overdue projects have been dusted off and completed! Accomplishing goals, chalking up wins, and making progress on a personal front are great ways to move up the commitment curve!

Isolation has been an unfortunate byproduct of this pandemic. Not only are we spending more time at home, we are wearing masks while in public spaces. People struggle to connect while wearing a mask. They often avoid eye contact. Yet when they do connect, they struggle to communicate because of the masks. To move beyond isolation, you should plan activities that you can look forward to. And even though it will take additional effort, stay connected with your loved ones; even if virtually. Happy hours, game nights, and celebrations are all happening via ZOOM!

Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage[1], believes that happiness is a state of mind. That we can choose happiness despite our circumstances. He offers that there are tangible ways to put yourself on the path to happiness. These include making lists: 1) One activity is to take time at the end of each day to journal the three things that you are grateful for. Over time this list will grow and will reinforce the positive aspects of your life. 2) Another activity is to create a list with two columns. The first column should include those things that you can control in your life, with the second column being the things beyond your control. You may be surprised to see how much of your daily life falls in the first column!

By actively working on connecting with others and increasing your own happiness, you can begin to move up the commitment curve. Instead of longing for the past and working your way back to what once was, you have the opportunity to accept and embrace the change! How can you come out ‘better’ on the other end of this pandemic? Try writing a personal Mission Statement and inspirational Vision for your future.

Help your Family and your Organization to move up the Commitment Curve

Where is your family and organization on the commitment curve and how can you help them move up the curve? Above all else, safety is the priority. It is important that you take the time to understand the guidelines provided by your local and state authorities. Develop a plan for moving forward, but be flexible. For instance, while checking in on a friend (and a Mom), she stated “Our kids were supposed to return to school with a blended approach (in-person 2-3 days a week), but the district announced last week that the first 5 weeks (at minimum) will be remote learning entirely.” Here the school system has a plan, yet also has contingency plans when the status of the pandemic or guidelines change.

Change management focuses on the ‘people’ side of change. Check in on your people and teams! How is everyone doing? Whether they are working from the office or working from home, what do they need? Norms for teams must be inclusive of those at home and those at the office. Team members must be trained and proficient at using video conferencing and virtual collaboration tools. Team leaders must learn and master the art of managing distributed teams. Developing a Training Plan is a great way to capture and grow new and relevant skills within your organization.

Now, more than ever, we must communicate transparently, listen, and survey regularly. Tapping into The Eight Constants of Change, “effective communication demands quality and quantity”. It is important to be honest, be organized and consistent, and to listen and respond.[2] Developing a Communication Plan to share status updates, address employee questions and concerns, and seek their ideas and input should be a top priority. Consider generating a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document to collect and share the most commonly asked questions and respective answers.

And… Don’t forget your Change Management Tools

By referencing The Change Management Pocket Guide[3], you have access to a plethora of tools that you can use to “Plan, Do, and Sustain” during this challenging time. We would love to hear how you have implemented these best practices to manage change during this pandemic for you, your family, and your organization.

 

[1] Achor, S. (2011). The happiness advantage: The seven principles that fuel success and performance at work. London: Virgin Books.

[2] Nelson, K., & Aaron, S. (2008). Chapter 6: You Can Say That Again. In The eight constants of change: What leaders need to know to drive change and win. CornerStone Leadership Institute.

[3] Nelson, K., & Aaron, S. (2005). The change management pocket guide: Tools for managing change. Place of publication not identified: Change Guides LLC.