Fisher with combats on the pontoon

Recently I was invited to participate in a resilience session ahead of an organisational restructuring and consulted on what could be covered in that session. The change curve was proposed. I suggested that if I saw another change curve I might scream out loud by mistake.

Having already offered to design and deliver resilience sessions to other teams of staff, I was mid-pondering what that should cover in the allocated one hour. I begun by putting together a presentation around proactive working, positive psychology and resilience strategies. But soon enough I realised that what colleagues would value most from such a session would be to open up those neurological pathways and just chat about what was going on, so redesigned the session and bundled up materials for folk to take away instead. But I also wanted to introduce some energy into the session and so I introduced an exercise around Fisher’s personal transition curve (http://www.businessballs.com/freepdfmaterials/fisher-transition-curve-2012bb.pdf) – the irony wasn’t lost on me.

I should also mention at this stage that I had suggested to participants, whether they had elected to join the session or not, that they would find the Robertson Cooper iResilience report useful to complete. If you don’t know about this, you will find this a great resource at http://www.robertsoncooper.com/iresilience/ – it’s free and consistent feedback is that “it’s “spot on!”

I needed to think of some examples of change to demonstrate this – so I referred to the first source of information I always turn to – me! – and these were the examples I shared.

At the beginning of 1997 I was a Project Manager on a dealing floor in the City of London. I owned my own (albeit mortgaged) home. I was a high earning, single woman who spent her weekends scuba-diving off the coasts of England.

By the end of 1997 I was living with my new partner, unemployed, heavily pregnant and living on a boat in North East London. I went from power dressing to wearing combats on the pontoon. The MOST changeful year of my life.

Throughout that year, I bounced all around the transition curve – the most difficult thing to cope with was my total change of identity. I was so excited to be expecting my first child. Working in the City had never played to my values, so redundancy (for that was what it was) was gratefully welcomed. But finding myself in a community that had only ever met me as an expectant, unemployed other half of a respected fellow boat-owner left me recalibrating my identity for quite some time. We lived in that community for 10 years and later were joined by another wonderful daughter. I was so sorry when we eventually went back to life on dry land.

So, me? I like to think that I’ve gained a good understanding of how to meet change head on.

Recently I was offered redundancy again. Having had such a wonderful experience previously, I could only see this as an opportunity to continue my journey, to build on all the learning and opportunities I had taken advantage of over recent years. Granted, I’ve now got two dependents and that other half has become my husband – but they’ve lived my dreams with me and have bought in to the implications of the changes ahead.

So, I became really organised; setting up a home office and requesting an additional bank account for the sake of neatness of budgeting. When it came to the box on the bank form labelled ‘Do you anticipate any material changes [e.g. redundancy or maternity leave]’ I duly ticked the box. And my application was turned down – I didn’t ‘fit their criteria’.

I surprised myself when I very quickly became despondent. Had I lost all value? Had my identity changed so quickly? This despondency lasted a couple of days – until I opened up those neurological pathways when I found myself explaining the impact of the rejection to a friend. And then it was fine again – and I decided I would go to battle with these people. Who did they think they were?!! To such a loyal customer! Making such judgements. So “What is your criteria that rejected my application?!!” “Well madam (good grief), you already have two accounts, one of which you never use, so we couldn’t agree to you opening up another one”. I do? I mean, I did?! Oops.

I shared this too in the resilience session to demonstrate that, no matter how pragmatic we feel we are, things happen – we start to create stories in our heads and turn them into realities to feed our fears. I had gone straight from the end of the Fisher curve (Moving Forward) with a great backward flip to feeling threatened. So, maybe, there was a part of me that hadn’t been paying attention to what I already knew about the impact of change and that, occasionally, we do need to remind ourselves about the reality of the change curve.

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