One thing 2020 has taught everyone is that change is the one thing you can count on (whether you want it or not). It’s not if a change will happen; it’s how people can cope and come out more resilient. Change management has become a necessary skill as we progress through the ever-changing world. The skills to manage and cope with change, positive or negative, can be extremely difficult for some people. What is concerning is that some of these people are in leadership positions.
Not everyone can be an expert in change management and own a “go with the flow” attitude. Instead, people must accept the fate of change and develop coping skills that support them and the organization. However, this is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and leaders need to focus more on what an individual needs from them to feel supported during change. There is a simple answer to how leaders can best support their organization by keeping in tune emotionally with everyone and utilizing their emotional intelligence.
You Can Count on Change
Change is always right around the corner, and there is nothing you can do about it. However, change can be temporary, and when people use their emotional intelligence skills, they realize what they can control in the world and what they cannot. In an ideal world, everyone has a positive mindset and moves swiftly through change without any challenges. But, with the current state of the world, it’s hard to ignore. The world has experienced a new level of turmoil with the COVID-19 virus disrupting lives personally, professionally and even politically. With everyone hit in different ways emotionally, not everyone is coming out as resilient as they could.
Supporting the current and future workforce through change comes from seeing every challenge as an opportunity to grow. Investing in your people and their emotions will help leaders better understand the steps they need to take to maneuver smoothly through the current state and steer through any future changes. Organizations are starting to tap into the benefits of emotional intelligence in change management to improve communication, empathy, flexibility, and optimism. Employees don’t want a list of guidelines about what the change will look like; they want to feel heard, acknowledged and supported through the process.
“Don’t let the concept of change scare you as much as the prospect of being unhappy.” – Timber Hawkeye
Using Emotional Intelligence to Cope with Change
Using Your EQ to Cope With Stress During COVID-19 outlines the importance of stress management during times of turmoil. However, stress from change can come from positive shifts in life, as well. A student may have just graduated and is starting their first real job. Employees may be stressed about their promotion and don’t feel confident to succeed in the new role. It is important not to focus on the change itself, but preferably on the people enduring the change. When leaders can put themselves in their employee’s shoes and show compassion when uncertainties arise, that is when employees feel seen, valued and supported. And when employees feel their manager has their back, their true resilience and perseverance comes through.
Let’s be real; all change is scary. So, how do organizations support people not only through negative change but also positive change? The key to a happy and productive workforce is utilizing emotional intelligence to understand how people are experiencing change differently. Once leaders understand what their people need from them, they can turn change in the workplace into an opportunity to learn and be better. In Things Do Not Change, We Do, it is evident that real organizational change happens when its members are involved in the process.
Here are some ways that leaders can use emotional intelligence to encourage a positive mindset during these changing times.
During uncertainty and change, people want clarity. Leaders need to anticipate that employees will feel uneasy by change, and need to communicate effectively about what the future has in store for them. Quality communication means providing employees with resources and support if all their questions are unanswered. Leaders need to have continuous open communication about workplace issues or even pressures outside of work that affect their adaptability to the shift.
For example, when the global pandemic sent the entire workforce all back home to work, some people had the luxury of a home office while some were working from their kitchen table. Leaders need to be in touch with each of their employees’ individual needs (especially now more than ever) and provide the resources employees need to succeed in their position. Or else, spoiler alert, they won’t be successful during the change, leading to employee turnover, unproductiveness, leaves of absences, and overall low company morale and culture.
As mentioned in Motivating Your Team With Empathy, leaders need to recognize, engage, and support their employees through these changing times. Hence, putting yourself in their shoes and understanding how they may be feeling. Leaders that support employees deeper than on the surface level and truly show they care are giving their employees a reason to work through the difficulties that come with change. A global pandemic is something people cannot control, but leaders can manage how they care, support, and appreciate their employees.
Leaders of organizations need to be more flexible and adaptable to the changing needs of our workforce. With the demand for virtual work and reliance on technology, employees require a more flexible work environment. Although millennials are cheering at the switch to a more automated workforce, older generations may be dreading the shift.
Therefore, preaching flexibility may look different depending on the individual, and finding a middle ground to make everyone comfortable during the change can be difficult. It is more important to be mindful of how everyone is feeling during the shift. Be patient with different levels of comfort people are experiencing while adapting to the new workplace dynamics.
It is essential to understand that everyone has different thresholds to the amount of change they can handle. People carrying around a negative mindset about the shift will have a significant barrier impacting their work performance and possibly others.
Positive reframing, otherwise making the best of a situation, is a well-known method to enhance an organization’s well-being during a significant change. It can be challenging to check in with each employee daily, but leaders can still spread their positivity. By focusing on the culture around things people can control, suddenly, the change seems less de-railing. It can be as simple as spreading kind words, celebrating successes, and compassion towards each other.
Investing in Your People
Investing in people’s emotional well-being can drastically affect an organization’s productivity during an unexpected (or even expected) change. For example, when experiencing psychological stressors, such as those dealing with workplace transitions, we have two responses – the fight or flight mode. Either one of those choices results in exhaustion from the enormous amounts of energy.
Emotional intelligence isn’t just selling you on the happiness of your people. It is inevitable to survive the never-ending evolution of the workplace. People are more willing to invest their time and energy into an organization or leader that provides a generous amount of support and understanding for their position in the transformation. Creating a culture that promotes emotional intelligence builds leaders and employees who don’t just want to endure the change, but rather support each other to come out more resilient than ever. When organizations collectively support change, everyone begins to drink the emotional awareness kool-aid, and all of a sudden…change isn’t that scary.