During these times of intense change you may be having difficulty focusing, feel like you’re on an emotional roller coaster; one day energized and feeling those creative juices flowing and the next feeling sad, low in energy and like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. You are not alone.
Researching and working with clients on change and transition for the past decade or more, what I know is that this is all part of the impact change has on us. Increasing your understanding of change and how you respond to it, and having tools and strategies to support you to move through it more easily can enhance your change experience.
As my gift to you, I’m sharing the video of a recent virtual participatory workshop I facilitated through Female Wave of Change. If you would like some support to better understand and move through a personal change you are experiencing, this gift may be just “what the doctor ordered”.
Here’s what you’ll receive. You will:
Learn what happens when we resist change
Discover a practical 5-step framework you can use to embrace change and generate creative solutions
Apply that framework to a major personal change you are currently facing.
Based on evidence from neuroscience, the health promoting and healing benefits of the arts, eastern psychology, and my own journey and work with clients around the world, the “Art of Change” Framework and Process can be your lifesaver during this time.
Here you go!
I am currently offering the one-hour workshop Embracing Change: Moving from Fear and Resistance Toward Clarity and Confidence as a stand-alone virtual workshop to groups and organizations at a special rate. It can be delivered as a “Lunch and Learn” or be the first part of a 2-part process for Leadership Teams, Project Teams, Boards, Community Groups … . This workshop focuses on personal change as change starts with each of us. Understanding how you and others on your team respond to change is invaluable.
Part 2 in the process is a 2-hour virtual workshop How to Move from Fear and Resistance Toward Creative Solutions during Times of Intense Change that focuses on organizational change.
The workshop helps to:
Improve focus and productivity
Leadership teams, project teams, boards, search committees have the opportunity to focus on a key change they are facing (e.g. new leadership, new culture, a change scenario to address something that is not working in their organization), apply the 5-step Art of Change Framework to a key organizational change they are facing, and through this process generate creative solutions to address it.
Each workshop includes handouts. In Workshop 2 as part of the process, ideas and potential solutions generated during the workshop will be typed up and sent later to participants in a short report.
During this time of immense change and uncertainty have you felt distracted, anxious, had difficulty sleeping? If so you are not alone. It’s happened to me and a number of my friends, colleagues and clients I’ve recently spoken with.
Many people are noticing that old patterns or beliefs they thought they had dealt with and/or cleared years ago, are surfacing. Others feel like they’re on an emotional teeter-totter; one day feeling upbeat and positive and the next feeling sad, anxious and overwhelmed.
What has helped me to get focused and stay positive is a decision I made several weeks ago to accept a new position and project in my life. Since that day (March 20), I have felt energized, creative, and focused.
I’m excited to share that I recently was named Ambassador for Canada of Female Wave of Change, a global movement that unites women who are changing the world into a better place. Female Wave of Change offers women from all walks of life a safe space where they can be their authentic selves, be economically empowered and grow into leaders and changemakers who shape the world for their own futures and for future generations. “I join(ed) FWoC because I feel so aligned with their Purpose, Vision, Mission and Core Values and I want to be part of this amazing group of women (and some men) and contribute to expanding and strengthening this incredible wave of change.”
Ingun Bol, the founder, from the Netherlands, started the movement only 3 years ago and currently has Ambassadors in more than 40 countries. Achievements to date include: 1) designing and rolling out Women Leading in Change; a 12 module group online leadership program for women who want to make impactful changes. The program prepares women to be authentic leaders drawing on their feminine qualities and values; 2) designing Reshape the Future – a modular online program aimed at empowering and teaching participants to become agents of change by building on their inner strengths, talents and capabilities. This leadership program was initially to roll out in April 2020 and has been postponed till September 2020; 3) Hosting their first global conference in Johannesburg in September 2019 where a Call to Action on Human Rights was developed.
In addition, Ambassadors with the support of their “Wavemakers” from different parts of the world, have been designing and implementing impactful projects such as one that taught poor African women financial literacy and supports them to secure mortgages they eventually pay off so they can own their own homes.
Areas of focus for various months in 2020 were identified last year and due to COVID-19, the leadership team recently revisited their priorities and decided to offer free virtual webinars, workshops, coaching and dialogue sessions related to the Corona Virus and situations we are all currently facing, and open these up to everyone. I was honored to have the opportunity to moderate a recent Panel of Older Wise Women where they shared their Purpose, their Visions of the World after COVID-19 and their views on Feminine Leaders of the Future.
You may access recordings of recent virtual webinars/workshops, etc. on the Female Wave of Change YouTube Channel and learn about upcoming workshops and events on Facebook at Female Wave of Change Global . We’d love to have you join us!
What new “thing(s)” are you creating or focusing on during this time when we’ve all been forced to slow down and reflect? Perhaps it’s your garden. Perhaps you’re cooking more and trying new recipes. Perhaps you’re drawing and painting. What is energizing you and keeping you focused? I’d love to hear from you below.
A new year holds promise and also brings with it
How do you respond to
uncertainty as a leader and changemaker? Do you typically greet it with
open arms, or hide from it pretending you have all the answers, as you feel
uncomfortable not knowing the outcomes.
What happens when you
approach uncertainty believing you have all the answers? You may set goals
and push through to accomplish them, focusing mainly on the metrics, without
taking into consideration your people and an intervention’s impact on your
organization and its culture. You may miss out on opportunities and creative
solutions that can arise from uncertain situations.
To illustrate what
happens when we greet uncertainty with open arms …
One of the things I’ve enjoyed about working in international health and development is the uncertainty, and with that, the opportunities for new and creative solutions, that present themselves. For example, when I was working in Afghanistan about 10 years ago as a Senior Technical Advisor in Planning and Performance Measurement, I met with the Minister the second day of my 9-month contract. At that time, she shared that although their original plan was to hire a policy and a planning advisor, since I had some experience with policy that she wanted me, within the first month, to give her a report of my impressions of her Ministry’s policy development and planning processes and what recommendations I would offer to improve them. This, on top of the tight timeframe I had to work with her folks to develop the Ministry’s first strategic plan and build their capacity in planning!
I went back to my office and asked the Afghan physician and policy advisor who sat beside me, if he had an org chart of the Ministry in English. He said “no” but he had one in local language. He printed one out for me and I asked him to tell me which departments were in the 15 boxes below the Minister and Deputies and the names of each Director while at the same time writing them all in English on the chart. Then I asked if he would take me to each one of their offices and introduce me to them (a few at a time).
At that time, I shared with each person that I would appreciate the opportunity to meet with them for 1 to 1.5 hours over the next day or so, and asked if there was a time that would work for them. I then followed up with the interview questions by email, which I quickly formulated. Within a month I had interviewed the top 15 department heads, rolled up in a report for the Minister what THEY perceived where the key strengths and weaknesses in their policy development and planning processes, their suggestions for improvement and added my own recommendations. In addition to learning a lot about how policy development, implementation and planning was done at the Ministry, I also had met one-on-one with 15 influential leaders in the organization, which served me well in the coming months.
If I had planned the above scenario in advance, it couldn’t
have worked out better!
What ingredients are
required of leaders and changemakers so we can more effectively deal with
uncertainty and embrace it?
I believe the following are important in this complex and
rapidly changing world we live and work in:
– Acknowledging that you do not have all the answers or aren’t sure what to do.
– Creating opportunities to reflect, and the ability to change direction during
a process that has an uncertain outcome (e.g. culture change process) .
Intelligence – Recognizing your own strengths and weaknesses, surrounding
yourself with a team that has complementary skills and personality traits to
yours, inviting their thoughts and suggestions, and truly listening to what
they have to say.
Understanding and Inclusive Orientation – Valuing a facilitated process
that encourages different voices to be heard and supports diversity.
to new ideas – Inviting creative ideas and listening to what people are saying;
(e.g. providing opportunities to encourage people to tap into and express their
Our beliefs influence our
perceptions (how we see the world), and our behaviors. Dr. Bruce Lipton’s work,
a stem cell biologist and author of The
Biology of Belief,
provides strong evidence that we can change the character of our lives by
changing our beliefs. How powerful and empowering is that!
As a leader you have the power
to choose what you believe and the ability to influence others in your
organization, the groups you belong to, and in your families.
It is important to be aware of
our core beliefs and to consistently walk our talk so people feel safe, trust
us and are aware of what is expected of them. I will share some of my core
beliefs from leading and managing in a variety of organizations and cultures for
the past three decades, with the hope that you may connect with them and also
gain some clarity on the core beliefs that guide you as a leader.
We are all interconnected.
You may have heard that when a
butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazon, two years later it can result in a
tornado in Kansas. The butterfly effect
has demonstrated that a small change in one area can result in powerful future
outcomes in another. If you as a leader believe in an organizational culture
that focuses on people, understanding and collaboration, you have the power to
shape and change the organization based on how you treat and respond to people
and challenging situations daily. How you communicate with others has an impact
throughout the organization and beyond. We all have heard about the
disheartened employee who has gone home and kicked his dog or beaten his wife.
I invite you to “try out” this
belief and have it in the forefront of your mind when you interact and
communicate with others on a daily basis in your workplace, community, and
family. Notice how this affects your interactions, the organizational morale
We are all the same. We
all want to be respected, valued, to feel safe, secure and to belong.
When living and working in
Afghanistan eight years ago, I was sitting in the rose garden of the Ministry
of Public Health eating lunch with one of my female Afghan colleagues when
there was a powerful explosion. Within seconds of the huge blast, my Muslim
colleague was phoning each of her family members to ensure that they were all
safe. I think most of us would have done the same. We all value family and care
about those close to us. The explosion was from a number of suicide bombers
entering the military hospital across the road. The result was the senseless
deaths of a number of Afghan patients and their families, and medical students.
I have enjoyed managing and
consulting in a number of culturally diverse and uncertain environments, and
believe my effectiveness has been largely due to the belief that we are all
the same. When you view everyone through the lens of that belief, you are
able to connect with them, and work effectively whether or not you speak their
language or have the same cultural background or religion. In Afghanistan using
participatory processes, I was able to collaboratively develop/co-create the
first strategic plan with the Ministry of Public Health, and have it pass
through all the policy layers and be signed off by the Minister within 9
I invite you to experiment
tomorrow and try throughout your day to view everyone you see through the lens
and belief that “we are all the same”, whether it be a homeless person, a
colleague you have a tense relationship with, or a family member you have
difficulties relating to. Try this and notice what you notice.
Nature connects me with my soul.
Did you know that when you walk
in forests, it reduces your blood pressure, reduces your heart rate and
increases the number of natural killer cells your body produces (i.e.
strengthens your immune system)? Based on longitudinal research, the Japanese have
institutionalized forest bathing or forest therapy. In their highly
competitive culture, they encourage and support people to regularly visit
centers in forests throughout Japan to forest bathe, and they continue to
collect powerful longitudinal data on its valuable effects.
I encourage you to spend time in
nature for 30 minutes or more at least 3 times a week. When I spend time in
nature I feel relaxed, energized, happy and free. My stress is reduced (if I’m
having a particularly stressful day). If as leaders we are committed to
spending regular time in nature, do you think it would positively impact our
Life is an adventure to be lived to the
Based on this belief, I’ve led
an adventurous and full life so far [and hope to continue doing so!]. I’ve
lived and worked in the mountains of northern Colombia with peasant farmers in
the late 80s when Pablo Escobar was “running around” and the Medellin Cartel
was in full swing. I’ve lived and worked in Kabul, Afghanistan for 13 months
from October 2010 to November 2011 (a volatile and uncertain time), and managed
large multi-stakeholder projects in Pakistan and Nigeria where corruption is
rampant and violence can erupt at any time.
When I don’t have adventure in
my life I get restless and feel unfulfilled, and I either seek out adventure or
it serendipitously comes my way. Similarly, if contribution and making a
positive difference in the world is one of your core values and you work in an organization that is
“all about the money”, over time you will likely feel unhappy and unfulfilled.
This will affect your personal and your work life.
Embracing change is a creative
process that opens me up to new possibilities.
These are times of massive
change and uncertainty. We have a choice to either embrace or to resist change.
When we view change as a threat and believe it is to be feared, this has
negative impacts on our bodies, our minds, our relationships, our organizations
and on our bottom lines. However, when we believe “embracing change is a
creative process that opens us up to new possibilities”, it has positive
impacts on our bodies, our minds, our relationships, our organizations and on
our bottom lines.
To learn more about this and proven strategies for embracing change, I invite you to download and read “The Art of Change Framework: A Guide to Embracing Personal and Organizational Change” from the homepage of https://pamela-thompson.com/).
beliefs guide and support you as a leader?
I welcome your thoughts and comments
 Lipton, B. H., The Biology of Belief – Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter
& Miracles. New York City: Hay House, Inc.
Our world today is characterized by uncertainty. Our economies, our relationships, our jobs, our futures … . Uncertainty is ever present in our lives. Learning how to change your relationship with and to “befriend” uncertainty reduces stress and has a number of other benefits.
The Cambridge English dictionary defines uncertainty as: “a situation in which something is not known, or something that is not known for certain” and “the feeling of not being sure what will happen in the future” (https://dictionary.cambridge.org).
Recently, I came to a point in my business where I was extremely tired and feeling little passion around what I was doing. I knew I needed to make a change but I wasn’t sure what that change was. I had launched a new website and had rebranded less that one year ago. What was I thinking wanting to change things up yet again? Perhaps I just needed to take a break; to relax and “recharge my batteries”?
It was an unusual situation for me to be in, as in the past when I’ve no longer felt “juiced” by what I was doing or felt that an organizational environment was toxic, either I would leave a position, or change my direction in business, and I nearly always knew what I wanted to do next. This recent experience was different. I did NOT know what to do next and felt uncertain.
What happens when we feel uncertain?
We often experience fear and go into fight, flight or freeze – the stress response – as we feel unsafe and our body wants to protect us. When stress hormones are coursing through our bodies we often don’t make rational decisions.
We may “jump” at the first solution that presents itself so we feel more comfortable. This can be a position that we aren’t suited for because we need the money, or a relationship with someone who comes into our life so we won’t be alone.
We may be influenced by a well-meaning friend or person whose opinion we value, and choose a career or position we have the aptitude for; however one that we are not passionate about, instead of taking the time to figure what really “makes our soul sing” and following that path.
I’ve coached a number of clients who were extremely successful accountants, lawyers, engineers … in their late thirties and early forties, who were dragging themselves out of bed every morning, feeling no passion at all for their work. When asked to reflect on when was the last time they felt passion about their work, many admitted that they never really had any passion for their careers; a well-meaning adult had influenced them in their late teens to; for example, “be an accountant because you’re good at Math.”
There was a time in my life when I became a workaholic because I didn’t want to face the uncertainty of what my life might look like if I left my husband. If I kept busy all the time, I didn’t have to think or feel and I numbed out. Possibly you relate.
Uncertainty means different things to different people. I invite you to take a few minutes to think about your responses to the following questions. You may wish to journal about them.
What does uncertainty look and feel like for you?
Do you typically feel fearful when you experience uncertainty? If so, is your typical response fight, flight or freeze?
Do you react differently if the uncertainty is in your personal life than in your professional life?
From experience I know that we often don’t make the best decisions when we feel uncertain. I also know that for those of us who are used to always “doing”, being busy, and having lots of structure in our lives, it can be challenging to NOT DO, but instead to slow down and BE STILL. Many of us believe that to be valued and loved we need to be “doing” and accomplishing important things. Being what I call “in the void” or “in the space between” is quite foreign to us. That said, it can be an interesting journey and valuable experience to learn to feel comfortable with uncertainty.
So how can you change your relationship with “Uncertainty” and perhaps even make it your friend?
Here are some lessons I’ve learned (often the hard way) to “befriend” uncertainty.
Acknowledge and Accept that you don’t know what to do and that is okay
Trust that everything will work out for you and the greater good
Believe that in time things will become clear
Know that you can’t force clarity
Remember that creative processes require time and space
Learn to listen to and trust in your body’s wisdom; it always knows what is best for you.
Below are some strategies to assist in integrating these lessons into your life.
Learn to listen to and trust in your body’s wisdom. A good place to start is to begin to integrate some mindfulness practices into your life. These practices help take you “out of your head” and “into your body”. They also focus on “being” rather than “doing”. One example is body scanning. On awakening scan your body from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. Notice if there is any tension, discomfort or pain in any part. If you sense any of these breathe into each part and visualize the tension or discomfort releasing or melting away. Another practice is mindfulness walking meditation that I recommend you do three times a week for 15 to 30 minutes each time.
Spend regular time in nature. This can be going for a walk in a nearby park at lunchtime, hiking, running by the ocean. Finding your special nature place and going there when you feel stressed or would like some guidance.
Do yoga regularly. Find a style that works for you. I recommend you do it at least three times a week.
Communicate with others who are close to you. They will then understand how you are feeling and often “cut you some slack”.
Reach out for support from family, friends, a coach or a health professional.
Get lots of sleep. If you’re feeling really tired experiment with going to bed earlier.
Pamper yourself; have a bubble bath, massage, pedicure, make time to read a favourite author
Move your body. Put on some of your favorite music and dance around your kitchen or living room.
Connect with your inner child. Do something you used to do as a child that “filled you up” (e.g. painting, drawing journaling) OR try something you’ve always wanted to do but never took the time for (e.g. dancing, learning to play a musical instrument, singing)
Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. Remember that when you follow your heart and acknowledge how you feel, you give others permission to do the same.
I’d love to hear from you about your experience with Uncertainty and what strategies and lessons you have found useful to help you deal with it and perhaps even make friends with it. I welcome your comments below.
 A mindfulness walking meditation enables you to get out of your head and into your body. When you walk outside in nature, slowly press one heal and the toes of one foot on the ground followed by the next, being totally present with your movements rather than thinking about all you have to do or reviewing a recent argument with your child or significant other. Focus on all of your senses. Notice the wind on your cheek, the sound of birds chirping, the smell of the salt sea air, see the beautiful vistas that surround you. Notice how you feel while doing the mindfulness walking meditations and after. Over time doing these walking meditations on a regular basis, notice what you notice.
In step one of the Art of Change Framework we explore how you respond to change and why.
Reflecting on how you’ve responded to previous changes in your life will provide you with clues as to how you will respond to integrating new beliefs and behaviors into your life, and changing old beliefs, attitudes and behaviors.
A good place to start is to answer the question How do I typically respond to change on a scale from 1 to 10; 1 being “I thrive on it” and 10 being “It scares me to death”?
Another useful exercise is to reflect on past experiences with life changes and answer the question What have I learned that supports me to adapt and move forward when faced with change?
Barriers to Change/Moving Forward
A number of barriers to change have been identified in the literature including: becoming paralyzed by fear, procrastinating, blaming others, believing we can’t do something or are not worthy, always focusing on problems rather than solutions, getting stuck in old habits or denying change is happening, and not being willing to put in the effort required to make a change. It’s helpful to think about a change that has been recently imposed on you or was in the past. How do you feel about this change? What barriers do you have to embracing it? I invite you to take a few minutes to jot down your responses to these questions.
Overcoming Resistance to Change
M.J. Ryan in her book “Adaptability – How to Survive Change You Didn’t Ask for” (2009) notes that the ability to adapt is “the key indicator of success in these turbulent times. It’s the capacity to be flexible and resourceful in the face of ever-changing conditions.”
Aikido masters say that to be successful in life three types of mastery are needed: i) mastery with self; ii) mastery with others; and iii) mastery with change; meaning “the capacity to adapt easily without losing our center – our values, talents and sense of purpose” (Ryan, 2009). How can we learn to be change masters?
How can we learn to recover quickly from change and be adaptable so that when changes are “forced upon us” (e.g. a job loss) or we choose to make a change, we view it as an opportunity rather than a challenge?
There are a number of studies and tools in the literature that provide us with a better understanding of change and how to navigate it successfully.
Maddi and Kobassa (2005) in their book Resilience at Work: How to Succeed No Matter What Life Throws You analyzed data from 400 studies on organizational change and also conducted their own study of AT & T executives during reorganization. They found that those who thrived the most while undergoing organizational change displayed 3Cs: i) Challenge; ii) Control; and iii) Commitment. Challenge – meaning they saw change as an opportunity to learn and grow and were optimistic about the future. Control – meaning they believed that they had choices and could influence their lives and events around them. Rather than worrying about things they could not control, they focused on identifying what they could control and took action on those things. Commitment – meaning they lived their lives passionately and stayed connected to people even when times got tough.
Tips for Overcoming Resistance to Change and Moving Forward
Change your perspective – View change as an opportunity for self-growth and learning; an opportunity to explore new solutions and ways of doing things; to put on a new “pair of glasses” and see the world differently.
Slow down and go inside yourself – create some time and space for yourself rather than keeping yourself busy. Set aside time in your schedule for you. Spend at least 30 minutes a day meditating, journaling, walking in nature.
Get in touch with and acknowledge your feelings rather that pushing them down and not experiencing them; this is important to begin the process of healing from the inside out.
Express those feelings through drawing, journaling, painting, dancing, etc.
Express Gratitude regularly – Create a gratitude journal or write down at least 5 things you are grateful for each morning or evening. Research shows that people who express appreciation and gratitude on a regular basis are more optimistic and lead happier lives.
Believe in Yourself – think of all the positive things you’ve done and accomplished in the past. Recall a particular time you felt really proud of what you’d done and reconnect with the positive feelings you felt at that time.
Nurture and Take Care of Yourself – make sure you are eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly; do something special for yourself such as going for a massage, having a bubble bath, buying a new outfit.
Reach out for support – to a friend, coach or counsellor; surround yourself with people who believe in you and are not judgmental.
Identify the things you can control when you’re going through change such as your thoughts, stories, and language. (from Ariane de Bonvoisin, The First 30 days)
The more you understand change and the more self-aware you are about how and why you respond to it, the more easily you can embrace and move through it. This has a huge positive impact on both your personal and professional life and your ability to positively influence others.
I invite you to share your thoughts and perspectives below on any part of this article. Feel free to share it with others.