Why our Mindset Influences our Experience of Change and What to Do About It 

How People are Feeling about Change 

As we start to contemplate the new normal’ and learn to navigate the unchartered territory of (post) COVID, we are forced to get up close and personal with change. Change is complex. Our responses and reactions to change are individual. For some, the new ‘normal’ will feel like a very scary prospect indeed, whereas, others, will be ready to embrace a new worldand may even feel energised by the opportunities this presents.   

Experiences and responses to change will vary enormously. Some members of staff will have been furloughed and therefore left with nothing to do, while others will have remained in-situ but facing different challenges, different work patterns, double shifts and secondments. Everyone has faced uncertaintyinsecurityinstability.  Our experiences and responses will be very different.   

From an organisational perspective this highlights a very real dilemma that organisations now face.  How to cope with change, including its diversity and complexity. 

The Challenges Organisations will Face  

From an organisational standpoint, notwithstanding the very real and immediate need to address staff wellbeing, there is a growing imperative for damage limitation and efforts are needed to minimise the adverse effects of change on performance In order to do thisleaders will need to understand better the combination of factors that influence performance amidst this ever changing landscape.   

In terms of our psychological understanding of change, this will involve a deeper insight into the compound effects of extrinsic and intrinsic components of change.  Including, clarity around the actions to take to address this.  So, what does this mean and how should organisation prepare? 

So How can Organisations Prepare for Change? 

When we talk about the extrinsic components of change we refer to the practical realities that people face, changes to working conditions, patterns, relationships etc.  When we refer to the intrinsic components of change we mean the individual responses people have towards change, how people react emotionally and how they internalise the effects of change. This involves building resilience and understanding how to support people to deal with the uncertainty of change effectively. 

This is where a deeper understanding of mindset is essential. As a working definition, mindset is the collection of thoughts, attitudes and beliefs that we hold.  Often described as a fixed or growth mindset. When we adopt a fixed mindset pattern our response to change is more limited and stifled, this is where we are more likely to struggle to cope with change.   

In contrast, when we adopt a growth mindset this enables us to respond to change in a more effective, constructive manner.  If we believe we cannot cope we are likely to struggle to cope.  If we believe we cannot adapt, we are likely to struggle to adapt.  If we believe we will not get through this change, we are likely to view things negatively.    

The whole premise of mindset has foundations in cognitive behavioural psychology, i.e. our thoughts, attitudes and beliefs will influence how we feel about something, which will influence what we do.  

Therefore, paying attention to mindset has never been more relevant and more important during this crisis because of the effects it has on behaviour.  If we want different outcomes and results, we need to adopt a mindset that will support this.   

How Mindset Influences our Perspective of Change 

The great thing is – mindset is not fixed.  Mindset is something we can change. Organisations, therefore, are well advised to think about the type of mindset their prevailing culture promotes.   

Based on the psychological research around mindset we can categorise it into three areas: 

  1. Confidence 
  2. Openness 
  3. Impact 

Confidence incorporates factors such as how self-aware and self-confident we are? To what extent do we believe we can complete a role and can influence the people around us in our role? And how shy or self-conscious we feel in public or unfamiliar situations?  

Confidence is important because it underpins decision making, appetite for risk and willingness to take ownership. Without confidence we may never make that step towards change, we stay with the familiar and are fearful of the unknown. During times of change those who are more confident will thrive better and can influence those around them that change is possible and positive. 

Openness incorporates factors such as how we communicate with others and how open we are when we do? How receptive are we to feedback and willing to adapt? And how worthwhile we feel self-development is? 

Openness is important because this ensures we remain receptive to new ideas and ways of thinking so that we shape the right attitudes and manage expectations.  Without an open mindset we reject or miss new ideas and opportunities; we stay with the known even if it may not work for us anymore; we may even keep doing things the same way as we don’t see or don’t want to see a new way of doing things.  

During times of change those who seek to have an open mindset often spot the opportunities when everything seems bad, they drive forward innovation and are not afraid to learn and encourage others to develop too. 

Impact incorporates factors such as our emotional commitment to the organisation and how motivated we are to stay? How productive we feel we are at this point in time and how willing we are to put our hand up to help out with voluntary activities to help the organisation? And are we feeling effective and successful in our performance? 

Impact is important because this relates to drive, motivation and satisfaction. Without self-honesty about the impact we think we are having on the organisation we are less likely to feel empowered and slide from role-model to disengaged or even lead the revolt against ‘the management’. 

During times of change those who feel they want to step in to help the team and organisation put in that extra effort to help out and perform. They are emotionally present rather than just physically present. They help drive forward the implementation of new projects and changes the organisation needs to survive. That extra emotional investment makes it much more likely they influence others to engage and the organisation, and people within thrive. 

Ask yourself these questions to understand where your mindset might be today: 

  1. To what extent do you believe you have the capability and confidence to make the most of your time right now in your role? 
  2. Do you know how you are being perceived by others currently and whether you are having influence in the organisation? 
  3. How are you feeling about the new situations and new experiences you are facing currently? 
  4. How strong is your approach to communication feeling right now, honestly?  
  5. How committed are you feeling to your organisation or do you want to abandon ship? 
  6. How effective do you think you are being today in your role? 

Ask yourself: Given your answers to the above, what one thing could you do to improve your mindset 

  • What skills or knowledge might you need to learn? 
  • What inner resources do you need to develop?  
  • Who might you need support from?  
  • What else do you need to develop to make the most of your strengths? 

At Co-Creation in combination with a coaching approach to individual, team and culture development we use a mindset diagnostic called Engage.  

Engage was developed by Organisational Psychologist and researcher Dr Jodi O’Dell in 2006 and is an established, proven measure of all the factors which influence our state of mind. This diagnostic can be used to identify specifically what barriers individuals, teams and organisations face in their current mindset and provides clear recommendations on how to eliminate the negative impact of change, how to build resilience and how to drive a growth mindset.  

Do you need support and advice on how to address the mindset of people in your organisationContact Co-Creation to speak with a member of our specialist team. We’d be delighted to offer our advice during these difficult times.