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Are You Resilient Enough to Navigate Change and Transition?

Friday, March 17, 2017   (2 Comments)
Posted by: Angela Wright
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 "The only constant is change.”

Heraclitus, 500 B.C.


The Career SIG kicked off 2017 with a session on Resilience during change and transition. Barbara Phillips, session facilitator and new Co-Chair of the Career SIG, provided a thought provoking overview of the human process involved in change and transition; outlining the practical strategies that build Resilience.  


"Barbara engaged the group really well; she presented a thought provoking concept and effectively solicited participant experiences and reactions to facilitate a great dialogue."

 Patrick Dail, Director, Workplace Learning, CUNY


The “How” of Change


There is no doubt that change is complex, and there are many issues underlying what helps or hinders success. While a lot of attention is focused on the what (what do we need to do to plan for and manage change?), what is often ignored or downplayed is the how (how do we personally navigate transition?). Utilizing both established principles from the behavioral sciences and the latest thinking in the field of positive psychology, Barbara helped the audience understand the human processes involved in change and transition – the how.


What is Resilience?


Resilience is a hot topic from both an individual and organizational perspective, but what exactly is Resilience? What is it that makes some of us buckle under pressure, while others seem to easily bounce back?


Dictionary definitions include the capacity to recover quickly and the ability to spring back into shape. The group discussed, and tried to pin down, this rather nebulous concept of Resilience, and in particular, the capacity to ‘spring back into shape”. Many wondered if this is possible – are we not forever changed by our experiences? Certainly, a consistent theme among the theorists and researchers in this area is a sense of adaptation. Most of those working in this field identify Resilience as a dynamic process that involves a personal negotiation through life that fluctuates across time, life stage and context.


Strategies for Building Resilience


Barbara outlined the factors that impact our readiness, reactions, responses and resistance to change and provided an overview of a typical transition process. The group observed that during each stage of change (Denial, Resistance, Exploration and Commitment) our thoughts, feelings and behaviors are markedly different and do not necessarily follow a linear path.


Many of the participants commented that they found it useful to reflect on the five questions we might ask ourselves when facing change or transition:


  • How can I be more flexible with this change?

  • How can I better accept this change?

  • What good is there in this change for me?

  • What can I learn from this change?

  • How can I stay involved, but detach myself a bit from this change?


"I really enjoyed Barbara's presentation at the Career SIG.  My biggest takeaway was the 5 questions to ask yourself.  I believe not only is it applicable in a coaching setting but you could also reframe it for teams."

Liz McGuire, Senior Associate Director, Michael J. Fox Foundation


The discussion concluded with the identification of 5 key strategies for building Resilience, including: 

  1. Reflect – (and act on) on how you have successfully managed change in the past. How can you apply these skills and resources to the current situation?

  2. Identify those things you can control, those things you cannot control and those things you can influence. Focus on the areas you can control and influence.

  3. Manage your Mindset – acknowledge the myriad of thoughts and feelings surrounding change and transition and their impact on your behavior, others and your performance.

  4. Create a Support Structure, comprising three groups: those you seek support
    from regularly and are integral to your success; those who contribute to you in
    some way that you occasionally draw on; and those who you could seek support
    from but you do not do so presently.

  5. Increase Self Care practices. These might include Physical (e.g. nutrition, sleep), Mental (e.g. downtime, hobbies), Emotional (e.g. friends, laughter) and Spiritual (e.g.
    meditation, nature) self-care.

A Wider Application

Despite the individual focus (we were at a Career SIG event after all), my mind strayed to a broader application, that of organizational change. Research suggests that over 85% of all organizational change efforts fail to deliver expected outcomes and over 80% of mergers and acquisitions do not result in the anticipated benefits and synergies. These failings are largely attributable to the fact that leaders do not understand the human dynamics of change and do not know how to lead people during a period of transition. Food for thought…


The only constant is change.


In 500 B.C. Heraclitus wrote "the only constant is change.”  Fast-forward 2500 years and we find ourselves in a world characterized by disruption, uncertainty and rapid change. A world in which the need for an understanding of human dynamics and strategies for developing Resilience have increased exponentially, making this a relevant and timely event.


Thanks to Barbara Phillips and Robert Hellman (Career SIG Co-Chairs). 


William Dunmyer, St. John's Episcopal Hospital says...
Posted Tuesday, March 21, 2017
It's so true. The "how" is rarely discussed. Critical to reflect on how you are functioning in times of increased stress, not just "what" you are doing. Sage advice.
Robert Hellmann, Hellmann Career Consulting says...
Posted Saturday, March 18, 2017
Brilliant writeup, and presentation by Barbara!

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