Three Ways to Embrace Change in Uncertain Times

Chance May 14, 2020 By: Kathleen Zwarick Shanley, CAE

Your comfort with change has a role to play in your ability to navigate uncertainty. Here are three strategies for managing change that can help you gain some peace of mind and improve your focus as COVID-19 continues to disrupt life and work.

Change is everywhere these days, as the world continues to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. For millions of professionals, that means full-time teleworking, virtual team meetings, and the sense of isolation that comes from this necessary transformation in the way we work. Higher levels of stress and anxiety are the natural byproducts of change, and additional concerns about health and safety only raise the strain.

Fortunately, May is Mental Health Month, and Mental Health America, the organization behind this annual observance, reminds us that everyone faces challenges in life that can affect their mental health and can use tools to increase resiliency. One way to build resiliency is to embrace change as an opportunity. Here are three ways to do that and give yourself a greater sense of certainty and focus.

Move From Denial to Acceptance

When COVID-19 forced my association to close our headquarters, we were weeks away from our two biggest events of the year: our advocacy fly-in and our annual meeting. Stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions were emerging quickly for both our staff and our member physicians. This soon-to-be pandemic was going to impact our events, our workflow, and our ability to come to work every day, even if we didn’t want to acknowledge it. We began talking, identifying concerns, evaluating our ability to cancel or postpone meetings, acknowledging our feelings about the situation, and moving toward acceptance of our new norm.

Tip: Denial shows up as underestimating the situation, not being transparent, and blowing off meetings and conversations. Moving to acceptance allows you to be transparent with your members and colleagues and, if you are a manager, with your staff. The key is to gather credible information to educate yourself about the change and gain clarity on what is actually being affected and what is not.

One way to build resiliency is to embrace change as an opportunity.

Focus on Priorities and Possibilities

Setting short-term priorities based on what you know now and creating a parking lot for long-term priorities that you can revisit later will help you reduce uncertainty and stay focused on what’s important to you and your association.

Also consider the opportunity that change can bring for mastering new skills, forming new habits, and making new connections. Now is a great time to gain knowledge about running effective virtual meetings, adding a new discipline to your routine (such as carving out time for professional reading each week), and inviting someone to network via Zoom.

Tip: Choose to consider the glass half full and explore possibilities as a way to stay positive even when the situation seems grim. Identifying what should be done in the short term, as well as creating a radar screen for longer-term goals, gives you much-needed focus in the midst of an evolving situation. And don’t forget to celebrate your successes.

Ask Questions

Let’s face it, change isn’t exclusive to the new normal we face today. But the lessons we learn in this current situation will help us respond well to change throughout our careers.

Tip: When you face change, ask yourself:

  • If I had 100 percent guarantee the change would work out, what are the possibilities?
  • What do I need to know more of to accept the change?
  • What’s my part in assisting with this change?
  • What new skills is change providing that will benefit me in the future?
  • What do I need to start doing, stop doing, and continue doing?

Asking questions is a great way to reduce uncertainty. You gather information and insights you can use to identify what you can control and to make plans to move forward.

Taking these three steps today can position you to thrive despite the many changes and unknowns that lie ahead.

Kathleen Zwarick Shanley, CAE

Kathleen Zwarick Shanley, Ph.D., CAE, is a certified leadership and corporate coach at her firm, Statice, LLC, and executive vice president of public policy and advocacy at the American Urological Association.