Disruptive Events: Part 3 of 3

D is for DisruptionDISRUPTION

What if you knew how to respond to a work crisis,
no matter how small or big?


Moving forward … ok, easier said then done. Here are ideas to help. In Part 1, I talked about the three steps of acknowledgement around disruptive events. In summary, we need to acknowledgement that:

  1. A disruptive event(s) has happened
  2. Change has already occurred; things will never be the same
  3. The disruptive change event has residual energy that can be harnessed, tapped into, for good outcomes

Let’s look at these three in more depth.

One: Acknowledge a disruptive event(s) has happened.
Easier if this is one-time, big event, like a natural or man-made disaster; harder if we are in the midst of an event which has a longer process, like the election; even more difficult if it occurs slowly, over time, like cumulative health problems or global warming. The best help you can give yourself is one of perspective, meaning try to change yours. For instance, taking a step outside yourself can bring realizations like: things could be worse, others are worse off than you or you have been through worse. Different points of view can enable you to become unstuck, release yourself from where your brain thinks you are and help you move onward.

Two: Change has already occurred.
Twenty years ago I read the original version of William Bridges’ book Managing Transitions (1991).   One of his core concepts is that change is an event that occurs at the beginning, not an ongoing process. What we typically consider ‘going through change’ is really the transition we go through after the initial change event. We are moving from our old state – the way the world was, to our new state – the way the world will be. Thinking about disruptive events this way eliminates, or at least reduces, our fear of moving into the unknown future and the fear of making ‘more changes’ to accommodate the new existence. By understanding the change event has already happened, we know, instead, we are in the period of transition. In transitions, outcomes can be acted upon. We have the power to affect our future.

Three: The disruptive event has residual energy.
Disruptive change events, especially large ones, have lots of energy. That is how they throw us off our track. It’s easy to understand and believe this when the disruptive event is large like a hurricane or earthquake. Let’s not forget man-made events like terrorism, war, mergers and acquisitions and elections. What the outcome of the transition looks like, how it will be, can be up to us. We can harness this residual energy to get the power we need to move forward and affect a different, better tomorrow.

People transition differently and at different paces, dependent on many factors including, but not limited to:

  • proximity to the disruption
  • the extent to which the disruption affects us
  • what state we were in before the disruption, and
  • how much energy is needed to achieve various new states

Understanding and tolerance is needed for successful transition for more than just yourself. You can only judge and set the pace for yourself. To do so you need to believe in yourself and get in touch with how you are feeling. Your feelings are valid, and so are theirs.

If I’ve learned anything from my experiences with big, disruptive events, including suicide, cancer and heart condition deaths and volunteering in large disasters with the Red Cross, it is that there is no right and wrong about how people feel. It just is. Don’t listen to those who tell you to ignore what you are feeling. They are usually expressing their own fears and insecurity about the change. Co-workers, family members, friends, et al. often do so because your transition outcome is likely to affect them. We are not an island. In turn, don’t tell others to ignore their feelings or demand and control what their outcomes will be. Their outcomes are their outcomes. We can help, support and guide. But we all have the right to choose and create what our new state will be. This different future will not be, and perhaps should never be, like the old, for everyone.