I had the very great pleasure of working with a large group of CFOs this week, who are coping with some gnarly transformational changes in their organisations. We were looking at how to lead change so that it sustains. We were looking for tips to maintain your energy for change.
In one session, we considered how people move through the change curve – from everything being okay, through denial once a major change is announced, into a confused state as we work through what the change means for us and finally towards renewal. This follows Claes Janssen’s simplified change (curve) model – the Four Rooms of Change – Contentment, Denial, Confusion, Renewal.
The four rooms of change
I invited the group to come up with their own words to define each of these ‘Rooms’ in which we live; each of these four states of mind. States of mind that everyone goes through when working through change. Here’s some of their thinking:
- Contentment – confident, creative, cerebral, fun, sociable
- Denial – stubborn, apathetic, intense
- Confusion – unpredictable, lonely, narcissistic, moody
- Renewal – individual, free-spirited, kind, enthusiastic, spiritual, rational
It strikes me that leading change starts on the inside. We all react to change when it happens to us from the outside-in. Learning to recognise our own emotional response means we can make more active choices in how to respond, rather than react. How we can maintain our own energy for change, so we can help others cope with it too. How we can internalise the change, so we work with it from the inside-out. This, I believe, makes us better change leaders.
The way we are working is not working
It also reminds us of the words that describe working in different zones we operate in as described by Tony Schwartz in The Way We work Isn’t Working. Schwartz suggests we work in one of four zones:
- The Performance Zone, when our energy and activity is high, and we feel optimistic
- The Survival Zone, when our energy and activity are high, but we are running around doing so much. In this Zone, our emotional state is negative, we become pessimistic about work, we retreat into silos, protecting ourselves from the outside world. We are just about surviving
- The Burnout Zone, when our energy drops too and it all becomes too much
- The Recovery Zone, when we find time to recover from the pressures of work, energy remains low (we are recovering after all), however we regain our optimism, and become ready to move back to the Performance Zone.
I suspect these two models are saying very similar things. Here they are overlaid onto one another:
When the pace of work and change becomes too much, our performance slips, we can find ourselves operating in the Survival Zone. This is like the Room of Confusion, we might find ourselves feeling lonely or moody. We may become narcissistic and unpredictable. We might also stumble through the doorway to Room of Denial and become apathetic, appearing to others as stubborn or intense. These are the signs we are moving towards the Burnout Zone.
The trick is to find ways to move freely between the Performance Zone and the Recovery Zone, so that we remain optimistic and enthusiastic, whilst slowing our energy and activity to recover, and then using our renewed energy to keep our performance high.
And so, the question becomes: what can you do to maintain your energy for change? To find time in your routine to recover from the pressures of work – where the pace of change is ever-increasing – and keep your performance high?
Three tips to maintain your energy for change:
- Find your own words to describe the four Rooms or Zones. Then, notice when you are feeling that way, it is probably an indication you are already in that Zone, or moving towards it
- Work out what renews your energy – this might be mindful meditation, sport or exercise, social activities, hobbies or clubs. At work, it might simply be finding time to leave your desk and go for a walk or have your lunch with others away from the office. It might be finding time to #JustBe. Outside of work it might be reading, listening to or playing music, painting or simply have a long soak in a hot bath. This tip helps you discover your own Recovery Zone.
- Mindfully choose to spend time in your Recovery Zone. Schedule it in your diary if needs be. For example, I have time blocked out in my diary entitled #JustBe.
You might find you start to spot the signs of the Survival Zone or Burnout Zone in others. If so, you might want to encourage them to think about their own Recovery Zone. You should also find you can spot the signs of the Performance Zone or the Recovery Zone in others and choose to celebrate their achievement!
Jeremy J Lewis
Committed to making a difference in leading sustainable change
 Schwartz calls it the Renewal Zone. I have changed the name so that it does not become confusing when comparing with the Four Rooms of Change model