Building resilience in the face of change

In my article, Understanding Change, I wrote about developmental, transitional and transformational change. Each type of change can have a different degree of impact, which implies thoughtful attention to how it’s introduced and implemented.

Change can be stressful

I’m lucky. For whatever reason, I thrive on change and it’s been a staple of my own career path.

For many, though, change can be stressful. This can be true whether you’re dealing with a developmental change to how business is done, a transitional change that represents replacement of a process or the status quo, or a transformational change that can involve both developmental and transitional changes as an organization revamps its strategy or processes.

How’s your elasticity?

It helps to focus on your resilience

Resilience can be defined in more than one manner. The term can be used to describe elasticity or the ability to bounce back or recover from difficulty or change. We use the term “resilience” in referring to one’s capacity to cope, and it can be intertwined with adaptability. The more resilient you are, the better off you’ll be – both personally and with respect to your career.

How do you build and nurture your resilience?

It may help to begin by acknowledging that change is inevitable, and that you’re not alone in dealing with uncertainty as to just how and when change will unfold.

Employers and boards of directors are grappling with how they’ll incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies in your workplace, and with the implications for the organization and its people.

There was one point in my career when I recognized a decline in my resilience. This reflected a combination of two issues unrelated to change, but the outcome was the same.

Some solutions

My solutions were right in front of me, in the form of renewed commitments to ongoing learning and networking.

Neither solution represented anything new. Like many of you, I’ve remained a lifelong learner. That can take different forms, from reading industry and association publications such as this one to delving into your organization’s strategic plan and annual reports.

Be a lifelong learner

Learning can be self-directed, and it can also take the form of certification, credit courses, workshops, webinars and conferences. The act of learning stimulates and energizes your thinking and, I believe, openness to new ideas and therefore change. It can also help nurture confidence and your capacity to positively impact your organization.

I had long been involved in three national professional associations, in addition to other bodies and extensive informal networks. I held leadership positions and led a number of initiatives, and mentored others within these groups. These networks also afforded opportunities for my own ongoing learning; networks and professional growth have always gone hand in hand for me.

Networks and professional growth have always gone hand in hand for me

Sometimes, if you find your resilience lagging, something as simple as contact with a trusted peer can be the best medicine. This is particularly meaningful for assistants who work remotely, in small organizations with a limited number of peers, or alongside C-level colleagues. A career in the C-Suite can be stimulating and rewarding, but it can also be isolating at times.

You do not need to be an extrovert to be an effective networker

Whatever your environment, you do not need to be an extrovert to be an effective networker. You need to be invested in your career, and in other people.

More to come

It’s almost two centuries since Mary Shelley wrote, “Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”

In writing my upcoming book, The Resilient Assistant, I’ve interviewed some of my readers from different countries about how they nurtured their own resilience in the face of unexpected situations such as job loss – typically the result of corporate restructuring. Networking and ongoing learning played prominent roles in their approaches to such painful situations, and these individuals are being generous in allowing me to share their experiences.

If change is thrust upon you

While we sometimes instigate change, it can also be thrust upon us. It makes sense, then, to take steps to build and maintain your resilience.

You know yourself best, and what works for you. It may be as simple (and challenging!) as establishing boundaries that support your ability to maintain personal or family time.

It may mean ensuring that you leave your desk at lunch time, and acting on a commitment to exercise regularly and get the best possible sleep each night.  Here’s to treating yourself well, as a means to nurturing your resilience and navigating effectively through change!

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