Re-framing Change: A Time to Curate Our Leadership Stories
Leading and Learning in our Global Workspace
Leadership is a life-long learning journey, and requires that we are intentional about connecting to our values, broadening our perspectives, and sharpening our capabilities. For leaders in our sector, however, it is often challenging to find the time and resources to allocate to leadership development due to limited funds as well as the urgent nature of our work and goals.
This blog series aims to 1) highlight and bridge research on effective leadership with simple and practical tactics for enhancing our awareness and for achieving our highest leadership potential, and 2) chart pathways for building more authentic and productive relationships with our teams and ourselves.
I have a great passion for supporting leaders around the world to clarify goals, hone strengths, and lead with courage and compassion. I have over 20 years of experience designing and facilitating capacity building and leadership development programs, and have had the honor of working with leaders and executives at organizational, international, and local levels around the world and from many different sectors. I embrace the philosophy that we are all leaders, that we all have inherent wisdom from our unique experiences and areas of influence, and that we all have the capacity to develop new skills, mindsets, and trajectories.
Re-framing Change: A Time to Curate Our Leadership Stories
Are you experiencing a significant change in your organization? How would you describe the impacts that the change is having on you and each member of your team?
There is nothing new about change. There’s a lot of it, and it’s everywhere and in every moment. We know this intellectually, but easily forget when a big change comes upon us. Whether it’s an updated strategy, a restructured team, or a new technology – a significant change can make an otherwise competent and confident person feel uncertain, insecure, and overwhelmed.
In his bestselling book ‘Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes’, William Bridges differentiates between the external change event and the internal psychological process that each person experiences before fully settling into the new reality that has resulted from the change. Bridges outlines the key phases and emotions that characterize the latter (i.e. the transition), but also clearly reminds us that each person experiences any given change and transition in their own unique way.
Within global organizations and remote teams, where information is often shared through both formal and informal channels, the impacts of a transition on each of us can sometimes be even more unpredictable.
We all experience the emotional waves that are triggered by complex or unmanaged change and transitions. In these times, we often observe ourselves and others as increasingly reactive, defensive, and intolerant. If we were all in a room together, we might be inclined to share a chuckle and muse the fact that tough changes and transitions do not typically bring out our best selves.
How do we reframe a change in a way that unlocks our best leadership qualities?
Change and transition offer an opportunity to connect to our best-leader selves. Whether you are leading yourself only, or also leading others, tapping into your ideals and values is an effective way to reframe a transition for better outcomes.
Here are three ways to step into your best-leader self during a time of transition:
Connect to Your Values:
All of us have values, and most of us have many, many of them. The act of prioritizing our 3-5 most important values forces us to connect to what matters most to us during higher-stress times. Let’s say, for example, that one of your leader-in-change values is communication. Would you say that it is transparency? Honesty? Inclusion? Overcommunication? Team cohesion? Each of these would have distinct implications for your behaviors, actions, and decisions when leading yourself and others during times of change and transition. Undoubtedly, the ways that you define each of your prioritized values is also key to the exercise and outcomes. Check out this list of values by MindTools as an initial brainstorm of values, though many of us will prefer to use our own words and phrases.
Label your Emotions:
Research shows that our emotions impact team and organizational culture. In fact, emotions are contagious and can be caught by others. When we are frustrated, others may consciously or subconsciously mimic these same emotions and associated behaviors. The same goes if we are feeling nervous, proud, overjoyed, or disappointed.
Emotions are natural and biological, so we can’t control how they arise. However, studies indicate that if we can name the specific emotion that we are experiencing, we can become less engulfed by the feelings and less likely to project them onto others. In this way we build our emotional agility, a term coined by Susan David of the Harvard Medical School.
The questions for each of us then becomes, ‘What are the specific emotions that I want others to catch from me?’ and ‘How do I emote them – deliberately and authentically – through my conversations, emails, phone calls, and meetings in order to support our best work’.
Craft Your Story:
Picture yourself five years from now and imagine that you are in an interview for your next dream job. The hiring managers asks, ‘Tell me about the most challenging change that you had to experience and/or manage. What were the actions that you took that would help me to understand your leadership style? Which of those actions had the greatest result on yourself, the team, and the ultimate outcomes of the change?’.
If we can imagine the story we want to eventually share with others about a difficult change and transition, we can specify – and therefore embody – the values, emotions, and behaviors that are most conducive to success. In this way, rather than navigate the transition in a responsive or reactive way, we can activate our intentionality and sense of agency to curate the leadership stories that we aspire to tell.
Which of these tactics have you tried and/or intend to try? What are the additional ways to leverage change and transitions to unlock our best leader selves and to write the narratives of our leadership stories?
What story will you tell the future hiring manager about your current transition?
I look forward to hearing from you!
Ariela Rosenstein has over 20 years of experience in designing and leading leadership development and capacity building programs. She has lived and worked in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and has a passion for designing and guiding experiences that equip leaders to develop clarity, navigate complexity, and remove barriers to success. In her role as Vice President of Training of an international conservation organization, she oversaw the global product line of leadership development and behavior change interventions. Currently, she advises on leadership development for a global humanitarian agency, where she designs, delivers, and scales online and in-person programs. Ariela is an Executive Coach, certified through Georgetown University’s Institute for Transformational Leadership, and is also a certified instructor of mindfulness and meditation. Her MA is in Sustainable International Development. She serves on the board of Impact by Design and is a Child Advocate with the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. She regularly shares her work at the Humentum annual conference.