A lightbulb moment about mental health and managing change

Resilience is often discussed as that aspect of mental health and coping, which is paramount to the ability to spring back during adverse circumstancesAccording to the British Medical Association, the rates of mental illness have been steadily increasing in adults and at an even higher rate for children and young people over the past five years here in the UK. Resilience is often discussed as that aspect of mental health and coping, which is paramount to the ability to spring back during adverse circumstances.

Being resilient helps people to manage stressful situations, protect them from mental ill-health and improve their health and wellbeing overall. At work, this ensures that people continue to do their job well and deliver at a high level.

Many people find change stressful, challenging, difficult and daunting.

For nearly three decades we have talked about how change is continuous and yet we have not changed how we manage and lead change for ourselves, much less for others. Is it any wonder then, we talk more about the resistance of change and burnout from change more than how we can actually help people in change?

The level of complexity and uncertainty is going to continue to increase. We need as leaders to build in the skills to be flexible and adaptable within ourselves and our organisations.

If it is one thing I have learned it is that change is going to happen to us whether we like it or not. So, the question is, how can we be resilient and manage the inevitable changes, whether we know what they are or not?

I think there is an element of resilience in all of us, when we are born. Have you ever seen a baby cry for milk, or a change of nappy or for sleep?  And they won’t stop crying until they get what they want – that is resilience. And we ALL did that. We have the ability and the skill.

So how do we build or rather re-build our resilience so we can cope mentally healthily and lead our people in change during these unprecedented times? We need to do three things:

We need to recognise we all have resilience within us already and hence it is a skill we need to nurture and build, not develop from scratch. We can do this by writing down each day/week what went well for us, what not so well and hence what we should focus on next. Most of us tend to focus a great deal, on what we feel did not go well or what we feel we messed up. Using this technique will help us focus also on the things that went well – our achievements, as well as our challenges. And enables us to put it in a way, so we create a type of action plan on how we can do better next. This gives us a plan and a way forward that is constructive and productive.  After all, isn’t it Confucius that said, “There are no mistakes in life, only lessons.”

We need to have a vision of what it is we want. This can be either short, medium or long term, but we need to be very clear what it is we want to do/achieve/get to. If we can see what it is we are trying to achieve, then we have a much greater chance of actually achieving it. At the same time, if we are wishy washy with it, then how will we possibly know we have achieved anything because we have not defined it. Many have heard the analogy, “You can get there one step at a time.” The question is to know what the step is so you can take it.

There is this book called, “Little One Step” by Simon James, I used to read to my kids when they were quite young.  It is about a little duckling and he found the journey home with his older brothers quite long and hard. So, when he would stop and say he couldn’t go on any more and wanted his mamma, his eldest brother challenged him to do “one step.” He didn’t know what that was, so his brother explained, “you just lift one foot up and say 1, then put it down and say ‘step’, and then you start again with the other foot.” The little duckling then started saying “one step one step one step” with each step he took until they reached the clearing and found home.

The duckling knew what he wanted to achieve and he did it, one step at a time. That is what we leaders need to do in business – NOW, not later.

We need to have a support network. Building resilience, like building a structure, requires support. And that support is multi faceted.  You will need cheerleaders to help spur you on, particularly at those really challenging moments. You need sponsors who make sure you have the right resources available to build like time, space, reflection, food, water, etc. They make sure you have what is needed to build the resilience. You also need a team to share the challenges and successes with, even if this is just through a conversation with 1 other person. You need space to vent, celebrate, bounce ideas and explore thoughts.

Change is not a one man band activity. No one person can be the guru of all information either.  It takes a lot of people to help with any kind of change, particularly in business. Someone said to me, “Yeah but Jennifer it doesn’t take more than one person to change a light bulb.” And I said – YES it does.

I did not make the lightbulb – a few other people did at the factory. I did not package the lightbulb – a few other people did. I did not transport the lightbulb from the factory to the wholesale and retail outlets – lots of other people did. I then did not put the lightbulb on the shelf for me to buy – someone else did.

I then may have picked it off the shelf, bought it, taken it home and put it into the light fitting, but there were A LOT of other people involved in enabling me being able to change a light bulb.

We always need help and support, even for the simplest of things and especially in change.

Using the three steps gives leaders the ability to nurture and re-build their resilience so they have the inner strength to tackle any and all challenges, particularly when leading change during unprecedented times.

Resilience is something we are all born with – what we need to do is nurture what we already have by feeding it so our resilience gets bigger and bigger.

Afterall, if a baby can do it, so can we all as adults.