Lead Strong Episode 34: Change Mindset

This episode of Lead Strong saw hosts and Directors of Cappfinity’s Talent Practice, Celine Floyd and Stephanie Hopper join with Zoë Gray, Associate Director of Public Partnerships at the UK’s biggest health and care research funder, the National Institute for Health and Research (NIHR) and Richard Cleverly, Founder of Think Cleverly Ltd, a consultancy helping leaders to transform organisations.

Before we begin to delve into the change mindset, we need to clarify the difference between change and transition.  Change is what happens externally, whereas transition is what happens to the person or the psychological processes at play when adjusting.

William Bridges, a leading author, speaker, and consultant on this topic, stated that without transition, change is just a rearrangement of the furniture.  So, unless transition happens, change will not work.

Research shows that people need a change mindset to transition effectively.  People who can transition to change have four key things in common: Hope, resilience, self-efficacy (or belief in yourself) and realistic optimism to bolster their psychological capital and change mindset.

How can leaders bolster their psychological mindset?

Firstly, remember to take time to reflect on past challenges and think about what made the difference in those situations.  Zoë said she sometimes moves on too quickly, without really reflecting on achievements and how the learning can be applied now.  Taking the time to reflect on experiences helps to bolster your confidence going forward.

Secondly, try to reframe the situation.  Zoë explained that often when we have a certain thought, an immediate emotional response follows which can colour our view and how we deal with a situation.  So, if you feel your thoughts distorting or start to feel a sense of dread for an impending situation, try to take a step back from it and consider the facts of the situation.  This helps our resilience to handle what is coming.

Finally, try to remember that you cannot pour from an empty jug.  If your mind and body are under a lot of stress, you must take time to relax and replenish to be more effective.

Richard would encourage leaders to put everything into some form of perspective.  In the corporate world for example, we may fear risk to our reputation or making a fool of ourselves, which might feel catastrophic, but these things are mostly in our head.  Therefore, one leadership tip would be to remind ourselves of what is the worst that can happen?  This is key to putting things in perspective.

Leaders can also call on their strengths.  One of Richard’s key strengths is curiosity.  So, if he observes something he is naturally curious about, he tries to think about what is happening and why things may have been done in a certain way.  This also helps to keep things in perspective.

How important is social capital when leading through change?

Social capital is about building relationships and trust with your employees, so that, even when you are not in the room, your intent is still positively represented.  It is therefore vital when leading people through change.

Richard reflected on a previous role, when a new leader came into the business to work on a big transformation.  He remembers being in meetings where even when the leader was not present and another employee began questioning something he was leading on, his fan base was such that the other employees began stepping up and saying that they needed to trust the new leader and their thinking.

This is a clear demonstration of the importance of social capital because you cannot be everywhere in an organisation all the time.  Social capital is therefore vital to ensure your leadership is present even when you are not in the room.

You have got to be authentic and sincere, and you must prove to those you lead that you believe in and mean what you say.  You cannot fake authenticity and sincerity, just like you cannot fake social capital.

How can leaders support themselves to better help people through change?

Zoë would encourage leaders to maintain their social networks inside and outside of the organisation because in complex situations of change where there is a lot of fear around, you may automatically close down your thinking when you need new ideas, new perspectives, insights and lessons from others.  Maintaining social networks is therefore crucial in times of change.

Try not to be too hard on yourself.  To manage and lead change well – it takes time!  There are lots of conversations that need to happen in the right order with the right people to get people on side.  Sometimes this can overwhelm us as leaders, feeling it is hard to work through all of that, but it pays off when you do it right and have the right people with you.

It’s also important to take your employees with you on that change journey.  Often as leaders, we know about change before it happens, but we cannot act like we are above it or move on too quickly; we must be empathetic and understanding to our workforce.  Don’t get caught up in systems and processes and forget the social capital side.  Be tuned into the heartbeat of the organisation but recognise that when you cannot be there you will need good people around you to support your plans.  Ensure multi-way communication is always happening.

Leaders must ensure that their people are at the heart of change to build their own social capital.

Watch the full episode here.