Dealing with Change Fatigue

Elizabeth Ferguson, Client Director at Crelos chose the theme for our January event as ‘Dealing with Change Fatigue’ in response to a programme of research that we are currently undertaking to explore what it is truly like at the coalface of UK plc today. “The message is coming across loud and clear”, she said, “everyone is expecting more for less and keeping levels of motivation and resourcefulness for change high is a key challenge for today’s leaders”. Elizabeth introduced the event by highlighting that radical change is all around us: a radical overhaul of the NHS; huge changes to the ways universities are funded and waves of change to how financial services are run to name but a few. “Everyone is talking about change and coping with change is something that organizations want and need to get better at”.

Crelos CEO, Alison Gill, spoke about the how quickly change fatigue can set in and what can be done to combat it. “One of the primary challenges of organisational life today is the speed at which leaders persist in and need to reorganise and restructure to remain competitive. In such environments, if not handled well, change fatigue will take hold” she said. Alison presented the need for leaders to focus on the skills and techniques that create resilience and resourcefulness. “When people feel resilient”, she said, “they are more likely to feel resourceful. With resourcefulness new solutions emerge”.

The annual cost of lost productivity in business is on the increase, yet the widespread message in our society is “Before starting an exercise programme consult your doctor”. Edward Drax, CEO of WildFitness offered Crelos’ clients some interesting insights on physical well being and working environment. “There is a substantial body of research”, Mr Drax told the audience “which shows that if you are physically fit you are more likely to be able to cope with feedback, make better decisions and have more energy. So, if as organizations we need to be better at adapting and changing we must take more care of the health and physical well being of our employees”. “A better way”, he said, “is to promote physical activity. If you want employees to be energized, productive and capable of meeting the demands of today’s rapidly changing workplace, then the widespread message should be – ‘before beginning a programme of physical inactivity consult your doctor!”. “21st century workplaces” he said “are suffering from the primate predicament, humans were designed to hunt and gather, not to sit in front of screens. Our current existence is damaging our ability to work effectively”. His answer to this predicament is the three W’s: WILD LIVING, WILD FOOD AND WILD MOVEMENT. This philosophy, he assured us, is easy to adopt and will reap benefits for business leaders and work colleagues.

During the event the audience was able to sample one technique used to develop resourcefulness in high change environments. “Consultation processes can be useful mechanisms to help people work through the change agenda’s that they have”. Consultation syndicates are a method that can be used by small and large groups to help employees and leaders work through and develop resourcefulness in change situations. Using this method an individual is offered the support of a group to work through an issue or challenge. The audience was surprised by the simplicity of the process and its acceleration effect. “It felt terrifying at first to have everyone focused on solving my dilemma, but that feeling was pretty rapidly replaced by a real sense of achievement, as I found alternative ways to think about the challenge my business faces” a participant remarked. “A leaders job is to make legitimate ‘not having an answer’ and holding a group in a space of understanding the issues fully - thoughts, facts, feelings and concerns. Containing the emotion is vital for people to feel resilient and explore fully what is going on. This is what happens in this type of structured activity” Alison explained.

Continuing the theme of physical activity, triple Olympian Miriam Batten and National basket ball coach Matt Johnson introduced the idea of Sport as a Vehicle for Change. “People often think of sport for one off team-building events but in situations of real change you need more than this. At Crelos we have combined what we know from commercial business, with expert knowledge from high performance sports coaches and athletes to create an innovative approach to help business leaders develop the behaviours required to lead teams through change”. Miriam and Matt shared several examples of the approach including one event using basketball as the sport and another using rowing. “The sport itself is carefully chosen because it becomes the vehicle through which people engage in experiential learning. These are not one off events but are carefully crafted components of a programme of commercial change”. For one organization the change agenda was cultural, they needed to switch from a rigid culture of rules and boundaries to one in which challenge and openness to change were encouraged. In another they needed to enhance collaboration between countries to create truly global team. Basket ball worked well for the former because the rules of the game are simple, yet open to interpretation. For the second, rowing – ‘being in the same boat’ with the difficulties of communicating in rowing crews was more appropriate. Miriam explained that Crelos’ recipe for using sport as a vehicle for change was precise and unique, using concepts and skills from world class coaching, expert facilitation and high performance environments.

The programme at this Crelos event was rich and varied looking at change fatigue and what can be done to combat it through a variety of lenses. Participants were encouraged to explore their own change dilemmas as well as to dive deeply in to concepts that encourage mental, physical and spiritual well being at work. The overwhelming message was clear. To be able to deal with an environment that demands rapid adaptation and change requires that we are mentally, physically and arguably spiritually fit. Those organizations and leaders who focus on a holistic approach to change will succeed and outlive those who don’t.

To find out more about the speakers, Crelos events, or Crelos’ ability to consult on organizational development and change please contact jane.galvez@crelos.com.

Ali Gill CEO and Client Director for the Finance and Banking sectors