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Leading Through COVID-19 Disruption

by ECCU

Leading Through

May 27, 2020

At ECCU, we understand the uncertainty you may be experiencing as a business owner in the face of COVID-19. We want you to know that we’re committed to supporting you and your business in not only making wise financial decisions for the future, but also in navigating new leadership challenges in this time. One of the challenges you may be facing right now is figuring out how to lead your team through transition.

We are living in unprecedented times as the global COVID-19 pandemic restricts physical gatherings of any size, requiring businesses of all sizes to pivot and innovate in real-time. As Andy Crouch advises in his recent article, “The novel coronavirus is not just something for leaders to get through for a few days or weeks. Instead, we need to treat COVID-19 as an economic and cultural blizzard, winter, and beginning of a ‘little ice age’—a once-in-a-lifetime change that is likely to affect our lives and organizations for years.”

COVID-19 is a colossal force, not just biologically speaking but also from the sweeping changes the virus has caused throughout the business world. Whole companies have pivoted, changed focus, and made unthinkable decisions with an hour’s notice. Changes like this take an enormous toll on the people, and as leaders, helping our people navigate this storm is one of our primary responsibilities. 

Bill Bridges was an American author and organizational consultant widely considered the foremost expert on business change and transitions for most of his life. 27 years ago he wrote a book called “Managing Transitions” that addresses the business and people dynamics when leading through times of significant change. 

In his book, Bill suggests that change and transition are actually two very different things. Change is merely a new situation presenting itself, but transition is the personal transformation that goes with the change. In other words, change is situational and transition is psychological, as people are the ones who have to embrace new situations and carry out the corresponding changes. The psychological shifts that accompany the situational shifts can be difficult for people and must be well-managed to have everyone aligned.

According to Bridges, every transition is a three-phase process consisting of an ending, neutral zone, and a new beginning. These three phases, when managed well, allow people, teams, and/or organizations to better navigate even the most disruptive of changes by walking through an intentional process of transition.

Phase I - Ending

  • Not many things begin with an ending, but every transition does.
  • Before you can begin something new, you have to end what used to be. And there are few simple, but quite crucial steps one needs to make to (help someone) put an end to something:
    1. Understand the situation: you need to explain/understand every change in detail, clearly and comprehensively.
    2. Recognize the reality: losses are not only material—they can also be subjective and emotional.
    3. Expect strong reactions: some will grieve, some will be angry; nothing is an overreaction from the perspective of the one who has lost something due to a change beyond his/her power.
    4. Be open and keep the information flowing: sometimes, there’s nothing you can do; communicate that in an earnest, sympathizing manner; don’t lie and don’t hide anything from those going through the transition.

Phase II - The Neutral Zone

  • Think of the neutral zone as a form of limbo: you’re on your way, but you’re not there just yet. 
  • And even though “one doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time,” there are a few things worse than uncertainty.
  • To manage this phase:
    1. Keep your demands reasonable: reasonable in the neutral zone means lowered expectations.
    2. Old rules out: if necessary, allow your employees to circumvent some of the old policies.
    3. Set concise goals: to give your employees a boost in morale, set concise short-term goals.
    4. Communicate: help your employees communicate among themselves.

Phase III - The New Beginning

  • Beginnings are strange things,” Bridges says. “People want them to happen but fear them at the same time. To help your employees kickstart their future, always have the four P’s in mind: 
    1. Purpose - if people know where they’re going, they’re more willing to tolerate change.
    2. Picture - go beyond words: show your people the final destination.
    3. Plan - a change plan is not the same as a transition plan; the latter consists of subjective, individual, emotional, and psychological elements.
    4. Part - if one is not part of the transition, he/she will be part of the problem; so, make sure everybody gets a role.

Many challenges still lie ahead, but not all hope is lost. In this season of change and transition, it’s possible for our organizations and the teams we lead to emerge stronger on the other side. It’s our aim to see our members succeed and prosper despite difficulty. That’s why we’re committed to serving you in any way we can as you pursue the Kingdom work God has called you to—starting with helping you protect, grow, and share your financial resources.

Category: Ministry Matters