Everybody knows about change, but no one knows what to do about it. Two attributes that can help managers and their teams meet the demands of change are resilience and agility.
Change is stressful, and we’ve not equipped leaders with skills or effective models for addressing the psychological impact of change in the workplace. Mostly we tell employees to hang on and tough it out, that good things will soon happen. We assure them that they can manage the stress of change, but we often find out that for many employees, including leaders, it is easier said than done.
Building resilience and agility
Our normal biological response to change is to fight it. We seek balance and routine, and the more we can keep our lives stable, the better we feel. Unfortunately, change is happening at a more rapid pace now than ever, and finding tools to adjust to change is critical to both business and personal success.
Resilience and agility represent two skills that can help us shift our thinking to a more effective way of dealing with change. Both attributes represent two sides of the same coin, which has been referred to as “adaptive capacity.” Adaptive capacity relates to how much energy and strength we need to effectively address challenging, changing, and adverse situations.
Resilience is our ability to quickly and effectively recover from a challenging situation. Resilience requires that we reprogram ourselves so that the automatic stress response does not overwhelm us and we are able to respond to that situation effectively. While the mechanics of resilience may include everything from developing an optimistic orientation to managing our personal energy, the essential key to resilience is to find the growth opportunity that comes out of the challenge we are facing.
Agility is our ability to move quickly and decisively and to do so with some ease and comfort. Agility translates to an ability to remain calm and productive during changing times, to seek out information where it is available, and to act on opportunities even when you don’t have all the data to mitigate all risks. Rapid prototyping, where you try out a particular idea to see how it works and then modify it from there, is one example of organizational agility.
Managers and leaders must model the behaviors of resilience and ability so that their teams gain confidence during a change process that their leader is effectively reacting to the challenges confronting everyone.
Our innate biological response to change activates the stress reaction, and there is nothing we can do to stop that. It is essential that leaders recognize that this response will occur within team members and themselves. Developing skills in resilience and agility helps move us past the victimization that occurs when people feel powerless and live as if they are under constant duress. By building a mindset of resilience and acting with agility in the face of challenging and difficult situations, we can turn these adversities into advantages.
When you gain the skills needed to move from operational manager to strategic leader, you can guide your team to greater competitiveness and become a champion of change.