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Change Resiliency at Work

Change today happens rapidly. No longer are there short periods of change, followed by long plateaus of stability. Most of our lives today are a continual, unrelenting series of changes, with little time for self-renewal. Keeping you energized, optimistic and inspired in the face of change demands specific skills. You need to learn how to respond quickly and flexibly to new demands. These skills are called change resiliency.

We are all trying to understand and cope with the enormous changes in our work and personal lives. Mostly we react in a positive and productive manner. However, many people are describing their lives as so busy, working so many hours, trying to balance work and personal lives that we often feel physically and emotionally exhausted. Information overload and the speed in which we must respond to E-mails, faxes, pagers, voice mail messages etc. can leave us trying to catch our collective breath.

Let me tell you a brief story about a man I briefly saw at my office about a year ago. I work as a consulting psychologist helping people with work-related problems. The man-we'll call him Bob was referred by his supervisor at work. Several employees had quit and gone to work for the company's competitor. At the exit interview they indicated that Bob was the chief reason for their leaving. They each related a story that described their former manager as being critical and demanding.

At our first Executive Coaching session, Bob appeared to be, fatigued, de-moralized, dispirited, sleep-deprived, and burned out. It was as if his “soul was asleep on the job”.

As we explored his situation, Bob related how the company had been through three mergers, and a recent reengineering. There was the imminent possibility of another downsizing (euphemism for firing people). He as well as the other “survivors” were overloaded with work. Bob had resisted most of the changes, and his feelings were all “bottled up”.

As I got to know Bob it became readily apparent that Bob was essentially a good person who was extremely unhappy resulting in his making everyone else miserable.

So we started to work. The strategy was to help Bob get in touch with his emotions, and discover ways to regain a sense of control. We worked on Bob learning how to delegate and collaborate with others as a way of regaining personal power. Considering the work overload it was important to prioritize work based on what was truly important. We worked on Bob changing his way of thinking about change, and to focus his energy on the future. Most importantly we focused on Bob discovering a sense of purpose...what was truly important to him.

As I got to know Bob better, I discovered that Bob's real childhood love was art. And that he had gotten into banking in his 20's as a way of making a living when he first moved to the Bay Area.

One day, Bob told me he was taking a vacation and going to Hawaii to surf! I was surprised that he was passionate about surfing as it seemed out of character. Upon his return, he told me how he had come upon the idea of starting a business designing surfboards! What wonderful synergy of taking action, tapping into his essence -the love of art and creating a business of his own.

Bob continued to work for the company, but with a new sense of commitment. He continued to work on his decorating surfboards business with the goal to transition into his own business in the next year.

The above example demonstrates the four stages of transition.

• Denial (Shock-“This can't be happening”)
• Resistance (Anger, Loss and Hurt, Complaining, Blaming, Self-Doubt)
• Exploration (Seeing Possibilities, Creativity, Energy, Seeking Resources)
• Commitment (Focus, Vision, Action, Growth)

A change master mobilizes his/her resources and power to move towards their goals. It involves taking risks.

A change master is like a cat with nine lives. He/she has developed competency in each of the following areas. I call them the Change Resiliency 9 C's.

1. Control
2. Connection
3. Commitment
4. Confidence
5. Creativity
6. Capability
7. Compassion
8. Communication
9. Collaboration

How change resilient are you?

From 1 to 5 rate how much each of the following applies to you (1=very little, 5=very much)

1 2 3 4 5 Focus on things you can do something about (Control).

1 2 3 4 5 Seeks out support of people (Connection).

1 2 3 4 5 Discovered a sense of meaning and purpose in life (Commitment).

1 2 3 4 5 Engage in optimistic Self Talk (Confidence).

1 2 3 4 5 Imaginative and brainstorms possibilities (Creative).

1 2 3 4 5 Focuses on personal strengths and resources (Capability).

1 2 3 4 5 Have a deep awareness and caring for others(Compassion).

1 2 3 4 5 Able to actively listen and seek to understand (Communication).

1 2 3 4 5 Partners with others for mutual success (Collaboration).


_____ Add numbers to get YOUR TOTAL

40-50 Change Master
30-40 Learn New Skills.

Consider coaching.
20-30 Red Alert! Consider coaching
Under 20: Coaching might help!

Change Mastery Tips

1. Life is a series of transitions.

2. Change is easier to deal with when you know what to expect.

3. Shift beliefs in line with reality.

Limiting Beliefs

• I can't do this
• I can't learn this
• There isn't enough money

Empowering Belief

• There is always a solution
• I've succeeded in the past
• I'll succeed now

4. People need to communicate their feelings about the situation before they commit (Emotional intelligence).

5. Get resistance to change out in the open.

6. Have a sense of who you are, your values, mission and personal vision.

7. Empower and self manage yourself... create You, Inc.

8. Learn skills such as evaluating yourself and your situation, goal setting, getting support, recognizing     opportunities and creating action plans.

9. A sense of humor reduces job stress.

10. See change as a challenge or an opportunity, rather than a threat you can't control. Develop an optimistic      attitude.

Change comes as an enemy only to those who have lost the art of accepting it as a friend.–Tagore

Change At Work Checklist

Check any change you have experienced in the last few years.

1.) New type of work

2.) Changed work hours or conditions

3.) Change in responsibilities (promotion, demotion, or transfer)

4.) Experienced conflict with boss or co-workers

5.) Fired, laid-off, quit, or retired

6.) Continuous learning by taking work-related courses

7.) Organization was merged, acquired, or reorganized

8.) New technologies or new management team/owner

9.) New job or employer

10.) Started entrepreneurial venture


Write down three helpful ideas you can take away from this article.

1.) _____________________________________________________________

2.) _____________________________________________________________

3.) _____________________________________________________________

Write down an action step you will take to implement each idea.

1.) ______________________________________________________________

2.) ______________________________________________________________

• ______________________________________________________________

“ No matter how overwhelming change may feel ... it cannot compare to the incredible power and resilience of the human spirit”.

- Marianne Williamson


Bridges, W. (1991) Managing Transitions... Making the Most of Change . Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing.

Karasek, R. and Theorell, T. (1990). Healthy Work. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Golemenn, D. (1998). Working with Emotional Intelligence. New York, NY: Bantam.

Weisinger, H. (1998). Emotional Intelligence at Work. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Pulley, M.L. (1997). Losing Your Job-Reclaiming Your Soul. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Seligman, M.B.P. (1990) Learned Optimism. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

Scott, C.D. and Jaffee, D.T. Managing Personal Change... Self Management Skills for Work and Life Transitions . Los Altos, CA: Crisp Publications.

Working Resources is a Leadership Consulting, Training and Executive Coaching Firm Helping Companies Assess, Select, Coach and Retain Emotionally Intelligent People; Emotional Intelligence-Based Interviewing and Selection; Multi-Rater 360-Degree Feedback; Career Coaching; Change Management; Corporate Culture Surveys and Executive Coaching.

Dr. Maynard Brusman
Consulting Psychologist and Executive Coach
Trusted Advisor to Senior Leadership Teams
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