Episode 11: A Look at Navigating Change with Leah Eggers
Change causes stress in normal times. Change in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, is even more stressful, for both employees and managers. Leah Eggers presents insight into how to navigate that change in this episode. Individuals may be worried about a wide range of things all at once. How each person manages stress and change is not static: emotions and concerns often cycle. Leaders need to focus on helping their team members navigate change in these uncertain times by breaking the change and fear down into manageable pieces.
In this episode of Employee Connectedness, Unitonomy founder Charley Miller discusses the challenges of navigating change and stress in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis with OnPlane consultants Martin Low and Leah Eggers.
In this discussion, they will address how to shift the focus of employees’ worry to things that are actionable. This unprecedented time is filled with concerns and stressors, but breaking those down into components that are within an individual’s ability to control makes a difference. It can also provide a structure so an individual or business emerges from the current pandemic having used the time to implement change for the better.
Episode 11: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sKNe7kX4txo
Employee Connectedness is live-streamed weekdays at 10:15am EST on the Unitonomy YouTube channel. You can join there and ask questions in the chat. You can also find previous episodes posted there and on the Unitonomy blog.
Employee Connectedness: A Look at Navigating Change with Leah Eggers
Charley Miller 0:20
Hey everybody. Good morning. It’s Monday, April 20. I always have to look at my computer because as we’re in the middle of the pandemic. It’s hard to remember what day of the week it is, with the social distancing and being out of the routine, a little bit. So this is Employee Connectedness, a show where we like to talk about all things employees and collaboration and how people are connecting with each other, how cultures are being managed, and how leadership should perform, especially in this moment of COVID-19 where it’s really trying for everyone.
Today we have a special guest. We’ll see if I can point the right direction. Yes, I did. It’s Leah Eggers from On Plane Consulting. She’s partners here with Martin Low also On Plane Consulting. You are experts when it comes to helping organizations figure out how to cultivate their culture, how to improve things like communication, how to treat employees well across the entire HR stack. I’m sure your business has shifted just like everyone’s has since this pandemic started with how you’re managing your clients and helping them cope with all the dramatic changes, and I know today we really want to talk about navigating change. Martin, why don’t you tee up the presentation here.
Martin Low 1:40
So right as you said my name, I was making a note that I like the use of the word “stack” because technology, like you have this tech stack and that resonates with everybody. And for us when we think about the framework that we use that’s kind of like our “people stack,” if you will, right? And I’d never really thought of it that way. But I think it’s a great way to relate back to what we do, you know, as we think about building that ecosystem for growth and building, if you will, like, the people op stack, with full-stack inside your company. That’s really the place where we spend our time. You know, one of the reasons why we wanted to have this conversation today is we think that you have to start a foundational level, to make sure that you have all the pieces and parts in place so that people can be successful. And one of the things that I’ve noticed, you know me personally, but plenty of other people that we talk to are struggling with on a personal level is how do they manage through all the changes. And to me, that’s a fundamental like foundational piece like if you’re not okay, if you’re not showing up every day ready to work, it doesn’t matter. All the other things around you can be perfect, but if your people aren’t 100% okay and ready to go, that’s the thing you got to get to first. That’s top of mind to me today. For me frames up while we asked Leah to join up and walk through some stuff.
Charley Miller 3:11
Fantastic. So Leah, you have a presentation here. I’m going to pull it up for us so that you can really guide us….Go ahead, I think we’re ready.
Leah Eggers 3:49
Can you all hear me okay, yeah? Well, thanks for having us this morning, Charley, and for pulling up these slides. You know, you mentioned that we’re kind of in these unprecedented times and people are dealing with change and uncertainty on a variety of levels: they’re dealing with it personally, they’re dealing with a professionally. Our communities, our countries, our world is just, you know, really undergoing a lot of stress and a lot of change all at once. And so when you think about how to help leaders, how to help organizations, or how to help our family and friends and ourselves through these uncertain times, you know there’s a lot of tools out there to help people change. And not all changes are negative, some changes are really positive. And so it’s you know it’s helpful to just think through some tools that are going to help you to navigate change. So Charley, I think we lost the slides. Yep, there we go. We’re on the next one.
You know, so I mean some things that we know about change, and if you all haven’t experienced it this way I would be surprised, but you know change is kind of the only constant that we have. And right now we are dealing with a lot of it all at the same time and on multiple levels. But the reality is that everyone reacts to change very differently. It’s very personal. When you think about the typical reactions to change, you know, the denial, resistance, getting to acceptance…people go through it at different paces and they all have different reactions. And all change is stressful and can be challenging, even if it’s positive change.
Everyone reacts to change very differently. It’s very personal. When you think about the typical reactions to change–the denial, resistance, getting to acceptance–people go through it at different paces and they all have different reactions. And all change is stressful and can be challenging, even if it’s positive change.Leah Eggers, On Plane Consulting
And the reality is that a lot of the change we’re going through right now, it doesn’t feel positive. On some levels. it might: we’re getting a lot more quality time with our family and home and working on home projects, but most of the things that are being impacted by this change, namely concern of health and health of our loved ones, concern about finances and the economy, are things that times just feel out of our control. So as you go on to this next slide, what we’re really trying to position are some ways to think about during these times of changing stress how do we help individuals, ourselves included, focus on flipping the switch, as I like to call it. So how do we shift from, “I can’t” to “what I can” do, or “I don’t know this” to “what I do know” or what’s wrong to what’s right. There are so many things that we’re worried about concerned about. And a lot of times it feels like we can’t do anything about that. So what we really want to do is help individuals, think about shifting from that “here all the problems and the concerns I have” to “here’s what I can do and here’s what I can influence and control.”
So, you know, if you move on to this next slide, it’s just sort of this general concept of how can we make a difference, how can we have an impact, and what role do we want to have in all of this. And so at an individual level, in our home life, in our business or our work settings, and especially if we’re leaders, it’s important that we think about it in this way. If you go on to the next slide Charley. You know really what I try to encourage people to think about is how do you focus on what you can control? And don’t waste energy on the things that you can’t, you know? I mean there’s a lot of things that we’re concerned about and we probably can’t do a lot about all those things. But there are things in that world that we’re concerned about that we can influence and there are things that we can truly control, day to day.
And so that’s what this exercise, these circles as I like to call them, how they can really have I think some value to individuals. This concept is actually based on some research and some work that was introduced years ago by Stephen Covey in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. We’ve altered it a little bit and kind of created some different views, but it may look like something that you’ve seen that’s familiar. So the, the next slide really just highlights this idea of the circles and building them out and figuring out where you want to play. And so the first one is thinking about your circle of concern that probably is a very big circle right now. There’s a lot of things that are on our mind that are causing us concern every day, all the time, it’s not just during the COVID pandemic. But then if you keep narrowing inside of those circles and say what can I truly influence? And how can I have an impact based on those things that are concerning to me? And then more importantly, how do I narrow even tighter on that circle of control, about the actionable things that I can do day in and day out, that really are going to make a difference? And so what we kind of want to do is unpack these circles a little bit so if you go onto the next slide.
You know, if I were to ask people to just list out all the things that causes concern, there’s a lot of things that would come up and you know, Martin and Charley, I’d be curious, you know, what do you think’s missing from this list? But you know, day to day, these are the things that cause people, a lot of concern, right? So the finances, economy, we’ve got pandemic, and there are natural disasters, you know traffic maybe concerns people, stock prices. You know there are a lot of things that that really concern us day to day. And so this is really the starting point is “what are your concerns?” And then if you start to narrow that down and bring it in a little bit tighter on that next slide, you know what you see here is okay well, “what can I actually do about it what are the things that I can influence?” Well, I can influence how I vote, who I interact with, how I engage with people, the causes that I advocate for, where I shop, organizations I support. You know there’s a lot of things I can do to influence those things that are concerning to me.
But, you know, in an even tighter level if you want to go, a circle closer in, this is where we really can have the most impact and really focus on what can I control day in and day out. So if you go to that next slide, Charley. You know what we’re really getting is, you know, if I’m concerned about the economy or if I’m concerned about my finances, I can control my immediate spending. If there are a lot of causes that I am concerned about and that I am passionate about, whether it’s the homelessness, or feeding the hungry, I can volunteer my time, I can volunteer any discretionary money. How I spend my free time, who I choose to spend my time with and whether or not they’re positive and uplifting, or whether or not they’re draining and take a lot of energy away from me, our own actions and emotions are things that we can control day in and day out. So these are just some examples of how flipping the switch from “the things that I’m concerned about that could really cause me a lot of stress and anxiety day to day” and really focusing in on “what can I control,” and really be a little bit more positive about it can change your mood or outlook, can have a positive impact on your health, and just how you generally show up as a person.
Martin Low 5:10
Yeah, certainly. I think this stuff is great because I know, I even find myself sometimes spiraling. I’m reading the news, I’m trying to figure out what I can do to control the pandemic. The answer is nearly zero. Doesn’t it kind of feel like I’m on this roller coaster? Like, what tips do you have for people to kind of pull, you know, when you’re in that outside circle, how do you pull yourself back into the inside?
Leah Eggers 5:36
You know I think sort of the same thing that we tell people in a business setting or we tell our kids when they come to us with a problem or somebody they’re concerned about, the answer is, well, what can you do about it? You know so so rather than focusing on something that’s really big and seems untenable, how do we flip that switch and get people focused on what can I do today right now that’s actionable, that can impact that concern that I have. Right, so if I’m concerned about whether or not I have you know job stability or whether or not my finances are going to be stable coming out of the other end of this, what are the things that I could be doing now, to actually impact both of those things? I can be focusing on my professional development, I can be focusing on learning all I can, I can be networking, I can be researching. If I’m really concerned about, you know, my finances, you know, where can I be looking to cut down my spending? You know where can I be looking to sell things that I have? Where can I be, you know, looking for maybe another job that I can be doing this online or virtual during this difficult time so you know it’s really about focusing on action and things that are going to help to make a difference.
When they come to us with a problem or somebody they’re concerned about, the answer is…what can you do about it? …Rather than focusing on something that’s really big and seems untenable, how do we flip that switch and get people focused on “what can I do today right now that’s actionable, that can impact that concern that I have?”Leah Eggers, On Plane Consulting
Martin Low 6:46
You know, the other thing we’re that you and I’ve been talking about a lot that I think is great is there’s some of this where like you’re putting forth all this effort and you’re missing out on an opportunity to get a little bit of time with family or a little bit of time for self or a little bit of time to improve some portion of your life that you wouldn’t have the time to do if you were working. And so, for as much as people have that financial stress, people have that job stress. You may look online for a job or you may try and find another gig or you might try and land a few more customers, and they’re not buying right now and this may be a great time for you take that opportunity to do something else that you control that leads you in, and really makes a difference 3, 6, 12 months, 24 months out from now.
Leah Eggers 7:39
Yeah, we’ve given a lot of guidance to leaders as they’re trying to figure out how to care for their teams during this difficult time, about caring for your health and well being. I mean it’s really easy to fall out of our habits, during a time like this, but it’s also easy to create new ones. And so, you know, finding a way to spend more quality time with your family, finding a time to connect with people that you don’t connect with regularly via, you know, Zoom or Houseparty. You know, writing personal letters to people and you know bringing back that that art form that people don’t use anymore to connect with people. You know, cleaning house you know, whatever those things are that are going to make you feel like you’re using your time in a valuable way, because you’re not going to get this time back. I mean this is unprecedented in a way that you will never be forced into this kind of quality time with yourself or with your loved ones. And so how you use it and how everybody remembers you during this time is going to be that you were positive and you know you approached it you know in a unique and sort of uplifting way, or you were negative and pessimistic and the groundhog day really got you spiraling down into to a negative place. And so the question is how do you want people to remember you at the end of COVID. And how are you going to change, sort of your outlook and how you operate day to day as a result of it.
You know, for me, the, the circles and why they end up being really interesting is that at the end of the day you can talk about all this, but you also have to make a commitment and where do you personally want to actually, you know, make a difference. And so the circle that we like to add to the end of this, if you go on to that next slide, is just what’s the commitment that you’re going to make you know, what are you personally going to do. And so when we talk to leaders or we talk to individuals and we say you know if you’ve got a concern about something and you’re, you can control something about it, what are you going to do about it? And so you know we encourage people to, you know, set their goals, have a plan and actually, you know, ensure that that’s something that they have a concern about that they’re actually making that difference. You know I always like I think it was the Lily Tomlin quote of “I always wondered why somebody didn’t do something about that and then I realized I was somebody.” And so I’ve used this exercise before with people who are trying to figure out where they want to volunteer and where they want to commit their time and how they want to invest and those are very positive things that you can think about on a day to day basis. The way to use it on the flip side during a time like COVID is I’ve got all these things I’m concerned about but some of them we just can’t do anything about. And so, how do you narrow in and really focus your efforts on something that’s within your control and try to maintain a positive outlook during it.
The circle that we like to add to the end of this is what’s the commitment that you’re going to make, what are you personally going to do?…We encourage people to set their goals, have a plan and actually, ensure that something that they have a concern about–that they’re actually making that difference.Leah Eggers, On Plane Consulting
Charley Miller 10:27
Gonna jump on that last word “maintain.” Something I’ve realized: that it’s really impossible for me personally to maintain a state of mind throughout this whole thing. Right? I’m volatile, I’m going to go up and down. Some days it’s gonna be great. I feel, you know I do get a sense of pleasure from feeling productive within my work and working with my team to move the ball forward with the startup we’re building. But then there’s other times where I’m like, gosh, the groundhog days.
I am hearing that a lot from a lot of people there is this sense of this new routine is like kind of monotonous, it’s like every day is the same day. We don’t get to plan in our excursions the way we used to or go out for dinner just to do nice things. We all have to break up the routine, and especially for parents is harder to probably to just say “I’m going to really focus on self-improvement right now” because I got to take care of my kids, right and they’re all around all the time now because schools are out and that’s tricky. What advice would you have for anyone where they are starting to have these moments of reflection, they want to sort of go into a sense of what am I going to come out at the end of this, within terms of some sort of personal betterment or the for the company, sort of something we’ve learned and improved on, you know. What, any advice you have around this idea of the volatility that comes from trying to turn the bad situation to possibly be ultimately a good personal situation?
Leah Eggers 11:44
Martin, you want to take it, or do you want me to jump?
Charley Miller 11:47
It’s a hard question I know.
Martin Low 11:53
I think we try and make these things too complicated. Yeah, right. Yeah. And I’ll tell you, for me personally what worked well for me is I will get into that negative headspace like some people will and I’ll spiral. And then you say like, well, what do you need to fix? And I’ll get you a list of like 30 things that are wrong that I need to fix. What did you think about like building a habit? When you put 30 things on that list, you’re not gonna get to all of them. I think the simplest thing is the pick one thing that you have full control over that you know that you can do every day. It doesn’t have to be a big thing it can be something that takes 10 minutes every day. That’s gonna make things just a little bit better and then commit to doing that for a month. 10 minutes every day for a month, whatever it might be, it might be cleaning up a room it might be making your bed in the morning. It might be, you know, doing a meditation, it might be doing some exercise, whatever it is, it doesn’t have to be a big deal. Just some productive thing that’s a good thing that you’re not doing today. And it becomes a habit puts you ahead of where you are today. It doesn’t have to be all of a sudden you’re a superhero or you change the world. Like do something little for yourself. And then you can build on top of that.
We try and make these things too complicated…When you put 30 things on that list, you’re not gonna get to all of them. I think the simplest thing is the pick one thing that you have full control over that you know that you can do every day…Just some productive thing that’s a good thing that you’re not doing today. And it becomes a habit puts you ahead of where you are today. It doesn’t have to be all of a sudden you’re a superhero or you change the world…do something little for yourself. And then you can build on top of that.Martin Low, On Plane Consulting
Leah Eggers 13:01
I love that, I love that. And I would add on to that, Martin. I think that, you know, often, oftentimes we get caught in that trap of I don’t have time to do that. You know I don’t have whatever resources in order to get in a business setting, and right now we’ve got a lot of time on our hands, we’ve got potentially resources with people sitting at home trying to figure out how they’re going to leverage downtime and so I think on a personal level, how are you going to use that to focus on self-improvement? Your own health and well being informed those new habits? How can you start building some new habits as a family? I mean I’ve heard some people say my family’s actually sat down and made and had dinner together, you know, five nights a week during this and that was not happening before and it’s just kind of, you know, reinvigorated the family unit.
And so you know for me there’s things that we’ve probably put off or we’ve not done and if we were to put together a list of here’s all the things that we want to do or we want to spend time on for ourselves or for our family or for our business. Then you start chipping away at, you know those things that maybe previously were of concern, or that you didn’t feel like you were going to get to, because you’re actually taking control of how you’re using this time, and how you show up and how other people experience you, even though it’s stressful. We are all going through the same thing, you know, this is the probably the one time in our life that we can say that across the world, everybody has been for the most part contending with something very similar, but how you handle it and how you come out of it. It’s a very personal decision.
Charley Miller 14:31
I’m going to set up sort of a final round here with some takeaways that I’ve got. I’ve really enjoyed this. So #1: kind of worry about what you can control and try not to worry about the things you don’t have control. That’s, you know that. Yeah, it’s obviously easier said than done and I love the practical advice you’re given especially around the idea of creating habits build some new muscles here within you the new routine so that you’re kind of keeping yourself grounded you’re reminding yourself of this, this preaching. And I think that’s fantastic. When you guys are talking to a CEO or an HR team inside of a big business, obviously they’re probably past the stage now where they’re just trying to get people set up to work remotely right VPNs the technology the video conferencing all that, and now they’re starting to think probably long term. What kind of conversations are you having right now as they think long term about the new new?
Leah Eggers 15:24
I’ll start with I think that every company needs to be evaluating their business model right now and saying, is the work that we’ve been doing in the way we’ve been doing it going to bounce back and look the same or does it need to look different. And if it is going to look different than what are the implications to that on our people and the capabilities that we need to have and how we’re operating. And how am I preparing myself to come out stronger on the other side? The other thing is that you know there’s a lot of things that companies don’t have diligence around day to day whether it’s really understanding their talent and doing really good talent reviews or they’re not understanding their people and what their career aspirations are or what their strengths are, or even understanding how people operate best. And figuring out how to leverage that and truly tap into it and this can be a time where you can do both of those very effectively even virtually and prepare your team to come out stronger when you get out of the sort of COVID chaos right now.
Every company needs to be evaluating their business model right now and saying, is the work that we’ve been doing in the way we’ve been doing it going to bounce back and look the same, or does it need to look different? And if it is going to look different, then what are the implications to that on our people and the capabilities that we need to have and how we’re operating. And how am I preparing myself to come out stronger on the other side?Leah Eggers, On Plane Consulting
Martin Low 16:23
You know, Charley we’ve talked about this a few times now. I think it’s been really interesting to me about how the basics have changed. Right, so it’s still working as a manager that people think you care about, that was important pre-COVID. It’s important now, it’s going to be important when we get back to work. Like it’s like that’s not going to change. The reason that we’ve noticed that so much is all that stress is showing the cracks inside of the organization, so I think the first thing is is that the basics haven’t changed. People are still people, they still want the same stuff. They’re gonna expect that you have clear guidance or guidance right now might mean that when they need to be available, how they’re going to be connected, how they’re going to be connected. What specifically that he can work on and maybe that changes a little bit to like communicate. So that’s still the same, but that has changed. They want to know that you care about. They want to know why the company is doing what they do all those things to me are still the same. And this is a great opportunity to use distance and the new reality to invest some time and some energy into that and deploy your managers into that too.
Charley Miller 17:37
Oh this is all been fantastic, thank you all for joining and Leah for the presentation. It was great. And hopefully we get to do it again before long have you on here. Keep talking to us, because here’s my sense of what businesses are going through. We take things week by week right now right and I’m sure that also means all right we kind of learned this new thing whatever it is, what how’s that affects six, seven months out and I’m sure there’s just going to be this constant updating of plans as we go here and information comes forward of how things are gonna change the social distancing, just to name one aspect of this craisins, but um. So, this is Leah Eggers and Martin Low, On Plane Consulting, you can check out at www.onplane.com to learn more about their services and consulting with businesses, and thank you again for making the time.
Leah Eggers 17:58
Thanks for having us, Charley.