Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher (c.535 – c.475 BCE) said ‘the only thing that is constant is change’ and how right he was. It is likely that even Heraclitus could not have imagined the rate and pace of change and uncertainty we are subjected to in today’s world. In business, to stand still is folly as competitors and the world in which we live are constantly changing and increasing in complexity. Clearly we need to adapt to these increasing demands or make way for those who can.
But why do some people thrive whilst others wither in times of change?
Organisations are made up of people who respond to change in their own unique and individual ways, interpreting the impact and meaning of change from their own personal perspective and experience. Whilst some may embrace the challenge of uncertainty with excitement and optimism for the opportunities change may bring, others may focus on the risks, leaning towards more pessimistic interpretations and risk averse approaches towards achieving the future state.
In this article we introduce our theory around mindset, how this affects how we respond to change and the important resources of a successful change mindset. You will also learn how you can assess if your own mindset is helping, or hindering you with the change and uncertainty you are personally facing.
Aren’t there enough theories around change already?
Traditional approaches to describing how people respond to change are encapsulated in a variety of models and built into learning curriculums for those managing change .These provide insight into how people may respond to change and what to consider when leading change. Whilst these models have stood the test of time, emerging thinking from positive psychology enables us to move beyond merely focusing on the problem of overcoming ‘resistance to change’ and consider the ‘resourceful and adaptive’ capabilities of human beings to enable them to respond well to change, by capitalising on their strengths, emotions, resilience, support networks and cognition.
It is by looking at positive psychology we can see that traditional thinking about managing people through change is missing a trick. Positive psychology recognises that an individual’s attitude to change may not be as straight forward as being resistant to, or supportive of, the change. It is possible people will have contradictory positive and negative attitudes (ambivalence) towards the change, liking some aspects, yet fearing others. So even if we ensure people have the skills, knowledge and imperative for change, we may find they still procrastinate or fail to engage with it.
The power of the mindset
Our research suggest that the answer may lie within the realms of mindset. Here we define mindset as a powerful belief, a way of thinking, our attitudes, mental inclinations and opinions. It is not cast in stone, it can be changed.
But what is an effective mindset for coping with change? Our research in change management and positive psychology, along with our experience of delivering corporate change and coaching change leaders across organisations, informed our understanding of the mindset required to navigate change effectively.
This research suggests that those who respond best to change and uncertainty are those that can more readily adapt and respond effectively to the challenges change brings.
We identified 6 psychological resources which are fundamental to successfully navigating change and enhance coping during times of extreme uncertainty. These resources are, purposefulness, openness, resilience, efficacy, optimism and support. It is these resources which form the basis of our free Change Efficacy Questionnaire (CEQ).
Can I assess my own mindset?
Yes you can! The CEQ assesses your change mindset capability by looking at these 6 resource areas. As well as being free to use, you get a downloadable report at the end of it with questions for reflection and ideas for improving your capability. It was developed for use in an organisational setting and is versatile enough to be used by individuals, groups, coaches, facilitators, change managers, project managers, HR and wellbeing specialists to name but a few.
For those interested in using the CEQ within their organisation, we also provide ideas on how to use the CEQ in individual and group settings. For those wanting to know more about the research you can also download our document ‘The Science Behind the CEQ’. Note that we do not retain any data or information about you at all, so if you do not download or print off your report it is lost and you will need to redo it.
Finally, some of you may be wondering why we have gone to the expense and time of developing the CEQ and then offering it for free. Simply, it is because we are passionate advocates of positive psychology, we use it in our own coaching practice and have seen the benefits it brings. Our experience shows positive psychology can help others to understand how simple changes in mindset can make a such a big difference to wellbeing and mental health. We want others to not only use the CEQ as a basis for starting discussions about the impact of change in their organisations but to share this resource with others so we can all cope better in a world of change.
To find out more about the CEQ and to undertake it for yourself, please visit our website.