Clocks back an hour. Pumpkin carving. Fireworks & sparklers.
It has been an eventful week with several events signalling the end of summer and the transition to autumn and winter. The changing seasons are something that we grow up with and generally adapt to with little resistance each year.
I recognise and respect that some people adjust better than others and those affected by SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) really struggle with the impact of the shorter days in autumn and winter. I can understand how it can impact our mood as, at times, I have been drawn into negative thoughts such as dreading walking the dogs in the dark and scraping ice from the car on a frosty morning. But the changing seasons remind me how our perception of change hugely impacts on how we cope with it. So, what happens if I focus on the positives of autumn and winter? Like the cosy evenings snuggled up in front of an open fire, walking the dogs in the woods with leaves crunching beneath my feet and the prospect (however unlikely) that we may get a white Christmas this year. I believe the answer to this is that I am more likely to accept and adapt to the change and probably enjoy it more.
For some, the seasons changing may be viewed as an easy transition that we take in our stride and this could be due to there being a certain level of predictability with what will happen. We know the leaves will fall from the trees in autumn, the temperature will drop in winter, flowers will bloom in spring and temperatures will rise again in summer. Other changes that we face are not as predictable especially when the timing of events and the outcome have an element of uncertainty. These changes can therefore appear scary as we are unsure of what impact it will have on us. In numerous change management theories being able to create a 'vision', a picture of what the future will look like after the change, is an important step. We can visualise what winter might be like and so can adjust accordingly. As winter approaches we dig out the ‘tools’ we need to cope, like finding our cosy coat to wear or having a stock of logs for the fire. We do these things because we can predict that we will need them and by having them it will make us feel more prepared and make life more comfortable.
Changes in the workplace come in many shapes and sizes. Perhaps it’s a restructure or a new area of the business being developed but whatever it may be, do your staff understand your vision and what the future will look like once the change had taken place? Have they had the opportunity to assess what the impact on them might be? Feeling uninformed and out of control can reduce our ability to accept and adjust to change and so the opposite, having information and knowledge, can give people the tools to prepare and adjust. They may even embrace the change, making it a positive experience. The more positive experiences we have of change management, the more resilient we become which helps us face more changes in the future.
For me the seasons demonstrate how change is a natural part of living. Whilst some of the changes may be difficult and painful, the seasons enable us to appreciate the positives that difference and change can bring. Each season brings unique gifts like delicate snowflakes in winter or beautiful bird songs in summer. We each need to find ‘positives’ like these in changes that we are faced with and identify what ‘tools’ we need to support us to cope and grow. Of course, some changes are much harder to adjust to or cope with than others. But perhaps there is some comfort in the knowing that after autumn and winter have passed, spring will always bring new beginnings.
If you are making changes at work and can clearly communicate your vision whilst supporting people to find the tools they need to adapt, perhaps those around you will feel the change is as natural as the seasons changing.