Five Signs Your People Are Struggling with Losses & Endings
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Five Signs Your People Are Struggling with Losses & Endings

Five Signs Your People Are Struggling with Losses & Endings

“What happened? My team pulled together so quickly when we shifted to all-remote work and they had a real can-do attitude. Now they’re starting to bicker with people on the other teams that have interdependencies with us.”

“I don’t like dealing with strong emotions in people, but one of my highest-performing team members is suddenly sad and unproductive. I think I need to say something, but I’m a bull in a china shop, and I’ll probably make it worse. What should I do?”

“On the plus side, everyone in my department is going out of their way to help less tech-savvy teams get comfortable with remote working technologies. On the minus side, some of the team members are starting to get impatient and even a little arrogant about the slower learners in the company. I know this will not create a win in the long term. Why are some of my good-natured people starting to cop an attitude, right when I need them to show better cross-functional teamwork?”

If any of these statements sound like you, or a leader you know, there’s a reason for it.

The Covid-19 pandemic has forcefully shoved every person in your organization, including you, into never-ending waves of personal change.

You didn’t create this unprecedented global change, but it’s up to you to lead your people through it. And it’s hard. Very hard. Large scale, transformational change is much harder than anyone anticipates, and it goes on for much longer than anyone anticipates. We’re just getting started on this one. Buckle up. It’s going to be a long ride.

With the return of this blog, we’re going to explore the challenges and incredible opportunities of leading your organization through the multitude of changes that will present themselves through the Covid-19 crisis: transformational change, organizational change, and of course your own change and growth as a leader. Savvy leaders who play their cards right over the coming 12 – 18 months will reap substantial rewards in improved innovation, processes, and change resilience throughout their companies.

The first step to understanding why your people are behaving in these perplexing ways is to learn the three highly subjective stages of personal change.

These are different from the more objective stages of organizational change and growth, where many of us spend the majority of our time. Yet most attempts to lead transformational change fail precisely because there is inadequate attention placed on the subjective personal process of change that each employee goes through.

So what are these stages of personal change? When faced with an unexpected change, each person goes through:

1. Losses & Endings

2. Transition

3. New Beginnings

Now if this were truly a clean, sequential, and tidy process, leadership would be easy, but we all know people aren’t built like that. In fact, in the course of an hour, an essential employee or an entire team can bounce between all three stages. During this crisis, I’ve personally gone through Losses & Endings, Transition, and New Beginnings every day myself. Understanding the stages doesn’t stop them from happening. It helps you identify what’s happening and change your approach accordingly to lead people through it.

That’s why the first step is to understand the clues that people are in the first, second, or third stage of personal change. If you can’t see the clues, you can’t solve the mystery of what to do. However, when you see the clues, you can quickly adapt your approach to lead people through to the next stage.

This might feel like a lot of emotional heavy lifting to leaders more accustomed to using your intellect, competitive nature, and business savvy to lead. But I know you can do this. You just have to know what to look for and learn how to respond.

Let’s focus on the first stage: Losses & Endings.

What are the clues that tell you someone — or an entire team — is experiencing losses and endings? Look for the following signs:

  • Fear, even though they’re trying to hide it
  • Sadness, which can come across as being lethargic
  • Shock
  • Paralysis, often in in the form of struggling to make simple decisions that were easy to make before the crisis
  • Denial

In yourself and other leaders, also look for a rush of energy and jumping to action. Think of how quickly you had to move to get so much of your workforce ready to work from home. Think of how quickly you had to move to come up with solutions to help them deal with competing demands in their sheltered-at-home lives. For leaders it’s a strange dichotomy of sadness, fear, and an adrenaline rush. These odd emotional bedfellows indicate that you, Dear Leader, have entered the Losses & Endings stage, despite your mad rush of energy.

In subsequent blogs, we’ll dig in to all three stages: how to recognize the stage, what not to do even though it seems like a good idea, and what to do to effectively lead people through the stage and keep them productive, focused, and hopeful.

This week, look around you, look at yourself, note who may be in Losses & Endings. Next week we’ll cover what not to do and what to do once you recognize that a team or individual is in this stage.