This blog written by Rachel Cutler one of our performance consultants, best known for her work as a transformational coach and psychotherapist, summarises her thoughts on what people are referring to as the “new normal” ….
The reason the term ‘the new normal’ doesn’t work is because it doesn’t make sense – if something is new, it is by definition not what we are used to, not the everyday, not the habitual or the familiar; not the norm. The task for business leaders who have a plan for the new, is to communicate this message successfully to the people they want to take with them into this uncharted territory.
By successfully, I mean that straight talking is required, such as: ‘we are not returning to what we know; we are departing from what we knew. If the message is conveyed without ambiguity, with honesty and with a sense that it will be a shared experience, they have a better chance to take everyone with them into this brave new world of work.
Our perspective about change is key
Response to change is so personal and wrapped up in our direct experiences, that we project our positive or negative associations with it onto the next change we confront. So, the best way to deliver news of change is to be transparent about it, begin by making it clear that change is inevitable, it is necessary and it is here, now. If you believe in the change you are delivering post lockdown, be an advocate for it, make the argument that change is a process for learning, creativity, and growth.
Be sure to convey to your people your belief that their emotional, physical, and intellectual investment in the new, is crucial to its success and their happiness. This investment provides the individual in your business with a sense of ownership over their working environment and this is empowering.
We all need to feel a part of the process of change, it gives us a sense of potency and control (feelings which we may not have experienced for a while) and then we are more likely to adjust to and accept both the change to the physical work space, and the ongoing change that is the virtual work space of video conferencing with all its associated charms.
F.E.A.R. False Evidence Appearing Real – or is it?
The challenge for your business lies in attending to the wellbeing of your people as these changes manifest, and effectively managing fear will be key; if fear of change is not addressed, it will fundamentally undermine the effective transition from lockdown to the new.
For some, who want to return to what they knew, who cannot see that things are already changed, the fear is that the new will obliterate the old, including themselves. For others, who have become comfortable working from the ‘safety’ of home, it is difficult to dismiss the fear that they have been used to feeling for the last four months. Fear is what made us all stay in our homes and fear is what has kept us there. We are not going to be rid of this feeling simply because we are told to be, it is a habit now and habits do not just fade, they need to be consciously addressed.
Are you certain it will just work itself out?
What leaders do to combat these fears is crucial to the success of the business, because fear without end breeds anxiety, and anxiety feeds mistrust in the change and those who deliver it. We could encourage people who are afraid, to simply ‘be positive’, I have heard this a lot, but positivity will not work, you cannot bludgeon fear away with the relentless pounding of positive talk. Fear is a complicated feeling and it needs our attention before we can move forward.
What does work to counter fear is a sense of optimism, optimism offers more than positivity, it offers hope, hope that things will change, and those things will change for the better. Being optimistic is not a call to ignore our fear, it is a call to face our fear head on and to challenge the beliefs behind the feeling. In doing so we have an opportunity to regain control and responsibility for our feelings and decide to choose something in place of fear. What do we need in place of fear? We need trust. Trust in ourselves, trust in our leaders, trust in change.
Is that a risk? Certainly, trust always comes with risk. But to live in a world without trust is the riskiest business of all.
The author, Rachel Cutler, is an experienced executive coach and business psychology consultant. Rachel works with professional services and across HR teams and clients have find her approach to be very effective, in resolving challenges and conflict and in enabling them to achieve an enduring high quality of performance.
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