strengthTo remain viable in the present rapidly changing business world, organisations are introducing multiple, deep-impact change initiatives. It’s well known however, that large-scale change has a very disappointing track record of being successfully implemented on time and within budget.

“People naturally resist change” is often given as the reason. This is incorrect. People will accept and even welcome some types of change. They will however logically resist change which threatens their comfort; confidence; control and competence.

When change is experienced as disruptive or even unwanted, people feel dislocated, become obsessed with present problems and lose their perspective. These negative emotions feed on each other and entire teams can quickly become despondent and directionless.

Individuals and teams are particularly vulnerable if they feel their work activities no longer have meaning. If that happens, the leaders’ role becomes substantially more difficult. Not only do the leaders suffer as much as their followers, but they are also responsible for implementing change with demoralised and listless team members.

If you this applies to you, what can you do to find the strength to cope personally, to lead powerfully and help your team members find personal strength? Here are two strategies:

Actions to find strength to be a resilient leader

1.   Build your personal resilience by strengthening your purpose and meaning in life

You need to be personally strong, and an excellent way to do this is to revisit your connections to what creates purpose and meaning in your life. Personal meaning typically comes from one or more of three areas of significance — people, causes and faith/spirituality. Put simply, it answers the question of why during adversity you should persevere rather than give up.

You bring your personal purpose and meaning in life to work. If you can find ways of acting on and fulfilling your personal meaning and purpose at work, it will positively impact your personal resilience.

Here is a simple exercise to help you identify purpose and meaning in the work you do. It’s called the Five Why’s Exercise:

·         Ask yourself: “Why do I go to work?” Write the answer down without giving it too much thought.

·         Ask the question to yourself: “Why do I want to do that?” Again, write the answer down without giving it too much thought.

·         Continue to ask and answer that question until you can’t make any more refinements. Your final statement will incorporate the deep purpose and meaning that you express through your work.

It’s useful to ask your team members to do the same exercise and then talk about their final statements. The discussion will create a lot of positive energy and naturally lead on to how your team can achieve their deeper meaning at work despite the unsettling change. (An alternative method of doing this is here)

2.   Build the resilience of your team through reinforcing cooperative behaviours

Your day-to-day behaviours as the leader, and also your team members, have a huge impact on either enhancing or diminishing your team’s resilience. During the deep change it’s useful to all agree on the productive and useful behaviours that are needed to be resilient.

Here is a simple way of doing that with your team in about 2 to 3 hours:

·         Give each team member several large Post-Its or cut-up pieces of paper that size and a flipchart pen.

·         Ask each team member to think of a time when the team was at its best (for example, solving problems; coping with difficulties; most productive; most creative)

·         Ask the team members to write down their answers to the question: “What did the team members do or say?” Only one response per Post-It or piece of paper.

·         Ask the team to randomly stick their written responses on a wall or sliding glass door. Then request the team to group together related statements.

·         Ask the group to define each of the groups as actions statements , such as “Teamwork: Support each other by reallocating work to help those team members who are overloaded” and “Client focus: Meeting client needs are always our first priority, even when that means having to work longer hours and over weekends”

·         Consolidate the list of actions statements into a set of behavioural statements that the team will commit to and use to govern their behaviour during the difficult times.

As a leader you need to be personally strong and resilient to implement difficult and even unwelcome change. These two exercises will help you find the strength be personally resilient and extend your resilience to your team members. Your legacy will be that your team members will remember you as one of the best leaders they ever had. A legacy any leader would be proud to have.

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at

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