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How thinking clarifies our response to change

As we continue to work through this unusual time, we are seeing the wholesale effects of change all around us. We can see the effects of national and international change. Coronavirus aside, I work with many HR professionals as well as business owners and senior leaders to manage change programmes and any number of shifting landscapes in the workplace – mergers, redundancies, expansion and closures.

But we can, and should, also look at change on a smaller scale, examining its effects on us as individuals. As an associate of Time to Think, also through Cadman HR and The HR Agenda, I regularly coach on a one-to-one basis which is usually driven by the need for change, even if that’s not known at the outset of our sessions. The power of talking and listening comes into its own when there’s an issue to be explored with unidentified thoughts, feelings and assumptions bubbling below the surface, needing to be coaxed out.

“The quality of everything we do depends on the quality of the thinking we do first” is a favourite maxim of Nancy Kline, author of Time to Think, who goes on to say “there is nothing – nothing—more important in developing organizational effectiveness than ensuring that people think for themselves with rigor, imagination, and courage. Everyday. In every meeting. In every interaction.”

Talking through your ideas, challenges and fears can make space for change. Recognising the potential impact of your decisions can allow you to reflect sufficiently to empower you to go ahead and do something that might be tough or takes you out of your comfort zone. Lots of the amazing people I work with voice concerns based on any number of assumptions. “If I do x, y will happen”. Will it? “If I change my career, x will happen”. Will it? “I can’t do x because of y”. Are you sure?

Talking things through and challenging some of those assumptions can make an enormous difference to our decision making and ability to embrace change. Many of these assumptions are untrue and once you realise this, you will be liberated to do what you thought you couldn’t.

Managing change is a process. You need to think it, explore it, action it and live it. The process is much easier to face if you are clear and sure about the changes you are making. This is why good quality thinking plays such a key role.

I work with people who can’t pinpoint what is not quite right. Some people perceive change with alacrity and fervour whilst others view it like an incoming tsunami. I think the key is to be as sure as you can be, own the tremor of fear and excitement, and seize the day. We can’t spend our lives with our noses pressed against the window of the party, waiting to be invited in! The ‘party’ might be your career, travel, house move, relationship – it could be anything. In a work context it could be a promotion, office transfer or a confrontation. Thinking it through, exploring it out loud, being clear and taking action will mean it’ll be easier to live with afterwards, whatever the outcome.

“I have never felt uncomfortable. Debra is excellent at creating the right, free-flowing environment where I can be honest and then go on to resolve things. She’s not afraid to ask challenging questions” explained Laura Forster, HR Director at the Road Haulage Association. “To be able to talk out loud, exploring my thoughts without interruption, helps me to clarify all sorts of things.”

This is all part of making work human. We can’t always influence the bigger changes happening around us: at work, in our cities, country or across the world, but we can work on the effects of change to us personally – those we encounter and those change we actively seek. I’m here if you want to talk about it.

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