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Julie Jones, CEO of Lichfield Diocese and formerly with KPMG and British Aerospace, talked at the City Women lunch in March 2014 on managing the pain of change.

It can be painful and exposed to manage change effectively, in the workplace and beyond.  There is much to be learned from the honest experience of managing change, embracing the mix of success and painful failure.  

Julie talked of a particularly exposed time at work when she had to evaluate then manage an HR team which was dysfunctional and had lost its sense of purpose.  This involved making a key player redundant and then remotivating a deeply sceptical team.  In implementing this change, Julie was had to face an unexpectedly powerful negative backlash.  The experience was extremely challenging, stirring up a mix of self-doubt, guilt and fear while Julie was in the thick of it.  But that negative tape, with the paralysis it brings, needs to be challenged.  How do we do that?

There are various drivers for change, including strategic business necessity, tackling poor performance or helping someone to adjust their behaviour.  When we have to manage change that affects other people’s lives, we have to be aware of all of the levels of impact as people are drawn out of their comfort zone.  An effective change manager wins the hearts and minds of others, entering in to the mess and endeavouring to bring others through too. 

You need a varied toolkit to bring it off!

CLARITY OF PURPOSE AND PROCESS: How will the change ultimately add value?  What is the long-term benefit which is motivating the change? Why and how will we make the change? Is there a well-articulated plan and process?

RESILIENCE AND SELF-KNOWLEDGE:  Change challenges us all – it can make us doubt ourselves, our integrity, our character. Are you prepared for people saying unkind, unjust or hurtful things about you? What are the personal support mechanisms to see you through?

EMPATHY AND EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE:  It is not enough to rely on the cerebral, the logical and the rational alone: you need to know the individuals you are dealing with, understanding their individual idiosyncrasies and their likely reactions.    

BEING PREPARED TO FAIL AND OVERCOMING THE FEAR OF FAILURE:  Notice when the negative tape starts to play, but don’t get stuck with it.  Within the risk of change, we have to be able to make mistakes and learn from them, to dust ourselves down, acknowledge the mistakes and move on.  It’s continual work in progress…

KEEPING PERSPECTIVE:  How do you regain perspective? Remember there’s more to life than this, even when it doesn’t feel like it: nature, music, family and friends, anything that gives you a wider perspective.  Make space to talk to people you trust about the way you feel.  Draw on both your head knowledge and your heart wisdom, making time for the journey to connect the two.

Developing this toolkit is not an easy or quick task.  In managing the pain of change, Jesus is our role model, as the ultimate change-maker.  Notice his sense of purpose, his resilience and self-knowledge, this empathy and emotional intelligence, his attitude to failure and his ability to keep perspective, even under pressure.  It can be helpful to come back to his example, ultimately seeing things through the prism of resurrection, re-creation and wholeness as we find our own way through the pain of managing change.

A blessing, as we manage change:

When we have to manage change

affecting ourselves and the lives of others,

bless us with the courage to notice and name

the cost and the pain of change,

with empathy and emotional intelligence

as we let go of old patterns;

and bless us with clarity to notice and nurture

the creative possibilities of change,

with resilience and self-knowledge

as we embrace new horizons. 

May we travel the path of change,

in all its risk and potential,

all its failures and achievements,

with compassion for ourselves and others,

with clarity of vision and with integrity of heart.

And may we journey together,

supporting and encouraging one another,

regaining perspective,

working with the head and the heart,

as we embrace the changes of life,

in the workplace and beyond.

Sarah Thorpe, City Women Leader

March 2014