Change can have a big impact on life. While, usually, it’s not as major as bereavement, the impact of how change makes you feel follows a pretty similar pathway. It looks something like this…
Shock –> Denial –> Frustration –> Depression –> Acceptance –> Experimentation –> New Normal
Obviously, we’re in a pretty major change situation right now. For business founders, there is an impact on them directly as individuals – but, also, they have to manage the effects of change on their business too. Interestingly, nearly all of them have skipped over worrying about how this is affecting them and are much more concerned about the wellbeing of their business.
Six weeks into lockdown, the Shocks and Frustrations have more or less been navigated and most leaders have at least reached some level of Acceptance. In fact, most have moved beyond this and are in the Experimentation phase. A common characteristic for most successful founders is being fundamentally motivated – and that drive, which pushed them into setting up their own business in the first place, is now pushing them to find ways to make the make the best out of tricky circumstances.
(if you’re interested in the characteristics of a founder, it’s something that the entrepreneur Andrew Walker talks about with a lot of perceptiveness, in this 10th Degree podcast.)
One of the positive side-effects of working from home has been the opportunity for uninterrupted thought. It’s giving leaders time to think about their business more than usual. To be honest, for a lot of people, this has been an uninvited necessity thrust on them, but it’s reassuring to see the vast majority respond to the challenge.
This new way of working has certainly elevated issues of staff well-being, motivation and capability right back up to the top of everyone’s agenda. There is a great deal of thought dedicated on how to support staff – so they can continue to work in a way which is beneficial for everyone. Lockdown has opened up new ideas about how work should be conducted in the future. For instance, what is the function of an office in 2021, or is it right to expect much higher levels of homeworking?
In considering this, the more experienced leaders realise they are often in a privileged position. A bigger house, a garden, greater experience to draw on – all help to make this situation easier to deal with. But not everyone has that advantage. Many staff have not progressed along those 7 Stages of Change nearly so easily. Six weeks of lock down stuck in a small flat, with no outdoor area or fighting house mates for workspace on the kitchen table has left a lot of people fighting Frustration and lapsing into Depression. At the same time, staff on furlough face different pressures and uncertain futures – and are left to question what happens if they don’t get their old job back.
There seems to be a limit as to what can be achieved right now, with circumstances dictating the limits of help that can be provided, but there are glimpses that some allowance of movement will return in the nearer future. The expectation is, however, that social distancing will need to be retained for quite some time yet – including in the workplace – potentially for months.
The next hurdle for leaders is deciding how do they adapt to make sure the business operates successfully, but also that staff function to their best ability and in way which works for them.