It is very easy for people to become demoralised or demotivated during change as work becomes harder (less familiar) and possibly less rewarding (we’re not yet skilled at it). At the same time there is often a sense of loss of past habits or pleasurable activities, and a disruption to rewarding relationships. At the same time the manager can be so distracted and pressurised with all the meetings and decisions to do with the change programme that they are less relaxed and more critical than usual. They may also be around less, removing a valuable source of positive feedback for people.
To counter-act this, to ensure that people maintain good morale, are motivated, effective and resilient, we need to concentrate on helping people maintain a positive emotional state and a belief in their ability to influence things happening in their world.
1. Create Hopefulness
Hope is a future oriented motivating emotion that can be an early causality of imposed change. People lose hope when they no longer believe that they can influence what is happening around them, or the future that is unfolding. By helping them focus on what they can influence rather than what they can’t, you can plant or re-activate the seeds of hope. You can build on this by helping them realise how, by being pro-active, they can influence more than they thought. In this way you encourage hopefulness to grow. Hope makes us more resilient when we are buffeted off track, and increases our efficacy through its empowering nature. Hopefulness is further enhanced when people have a vision of a better future they are moving towards
2. Create dreams of positive future states
Often during change the focus is on what is pushing the change rather than what is pulling the change forward. Push change factors are not always highly motivating beyond achieving compliance with something or escape from something. To generate real commitment to the future, and to activate the energy and motivation that goes with that, people need to feel they are moving towards something desirable. Help people work out how they can create attractive futures in the change process.
3. Redefine success
Another frequent early causality of change a sense of achievement. The existing patterns of effort and success are broken or no longer relevant. And the new patterns are not yet established. During the disruption and transition of change it is often helpful ask ‘In our changed circumstance, what does success look like?’ So for a team that is be disbanded, success criteria can shift towards factors such as ‘Supporting each other to find new positions’ or ‘Creating a great celebration of the team’s achievements before we close’ or ‘Ensuring we look after our clients until the last moment’. The creation of feasible, achievable targets in midst of the general uncertainty helps people focus on things they can do in a motivating way, while lifting mood and so enhancing resilience.
4. Amplify success
This is related to the point above. Successes and achievements can get trampled or overlooked in the frenzy of change activity. To help boost or maintain motivation and morale its good idea to make extra effort to highlight and amplify the good work that is still being done, even as everyone’s attention is focused on the change. Internally this can be done in one-to-one conversations or in team meetings. Publicising continuing good work externally, through newsletters, emails or in other meetings, can also help maintain high morale during difficult times.
5. Encourage savouring
Savouring is essentially the process of taking the time to enjoy or experience a good or pleasant thing. In our busy lives we pass through a lot of moments without really noticing them. When under pressure, we are particularly inclined to do this with good moments as they don’t demand our attention as vigorously as difficult moments. However, taking a moment to savour a tricky conversation well navigated, a potential disaster adroitly averted, the first bite of a juicy peach, is a way of creating little blips of good feeling for yourself throughout a difficult day. It is a way of redressing the balance of good to not-so-good moments: a balance that is key to our sense of well-being which is in turn related to our sense of efficacy and resilience. Redirect your attention to ensure you notice and savour good moments and courage others to do the same.
Information on a further four factors that help create efficacy and resilience during change, and much more about the need to do change differently and guidance on how to do it, can be found in my new book Positive Psychology and Change.
Much more about strengths and managerial techniques such as the ones mentioned here can be found in Sarah’s new book Positive Psychology and Change
Sarah Lewis is the owner and principal psychologist of Appreciating Change. She is author of ‘Positive Psychology at Work’ and ‘Positive Psychology for Change’ both published by Wiley. She is also the lead author of 'Appreciative Inquiry for Change Management', by Kogan Page, the second edition is out in September.
APPRECIATING CHANGE CAN HELP
Appreciating Change is skilled and experienced at supporting leaders in working in this challenging, exciting and productive way with their organizations. Find out more by looking at how we help with Leadership, Culture change and with employee Engagement.