The Change Cycle™ Model: A Map to Navigate Covid-19
I’ve been struck by the number of people who are at such different places on the grief cycle during this pandemic. So what? Well, we’re experiencing a vast array of responses from people we’re in contact with daily, not to mention our own thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Some of us are better equipped than others at dealing with these personally and for our colleagues. We need to be informed about our responses and how to navigate our way through this period so that we are more likely to adapt and grow. After all, when we can manage change, we can emerge more successfully and quicker.
Kubler-Ross’ cycle outlines 5 stages that we move through at individual rates and not always in a linear direction.
- Denial: This can’t be happening!
- Anger: This isn’t fair!
- Bargaining: Maybe we can still try to do something… get to do some work, meet virtually…
- Depression: This is going to be awful being stuck at home!
- Acceptance: We can do this! We’re more fortunate than some others and we need to make the most of new opportunities.
I think it’s fair to say that many people have moved past denial, acknowledging that this current situation is very real. Anger is where many people are feeling stuck. For numerous company owners, there is anger about all the hard work ‘going to waste’ as your business is compromised. Other people experience anger at different interpretations of social distancing rules, with some acts appearing irresponsible to some and completely acceptable to others. We continue to feel a sense of resentment at times, even towards friends and family, whose situations appear ‘better’ than our own. There are the frustrations of parents paying for private schooling and having the ‘pleasure’ of teaching their children themselves.
A Cycle of Change to Learn From
These examples only scratch the surface. Change is personal. Anger runs deep and at many levels. So, what do you do with it? How do we move towards a state of acceptance? How do we achieve this for ourselves as well as support our teams?
I think it’s useful to flip to a different cycle, one about change. The arrival of Covid-19 presented a significant change, depicted by the blue triangle centre top. Change affects us at an emotional and behavioural level and when we understand our associated feelings, thoughts and behaviours, we can adopt a position of responsibility for the changes.
There are a number of different change cycles, including Prochaska and DiClemente’s model that I often refer to but I find Salerno and Brock’s process, The Change Cycle™, most useful here.
The primary experience of Loss, Doubt, Discomfort, Discovery, Understanding and Integration are divided into a traffic light colour system indicating: the red danger zone, warning us to stop and be observant; the yellow caution zone; and the green zone for freedom to move forwards.
The Danger Zone: Denial & Anger
The feelings of fear and resentment, the thoughts of caution and scepticism, and the behaviours of paralysis and resistance associated with the red zone are all the opposite to what is needed to experience change. They slow you down and stop you from taking action until you have more information. These zones overlap with the Denial and Anger stages in the grief cycle where we often see defensive behaviour that is about attempting to hold onto some element of control. Feelings of blame and black-and-white thinking (my way is the only way) are typical here.
- Achieving control where you can is critical so that you increase your feeling of safety.
- Seeking accurate, valid information about the change in the broadest sense is crucial to help get a clear picture of your reality to open the door to the next phase.
- Communicating with your team to provide as much information as possible is key.
The Caution Zone: Bargaining
Discomfort and Discovery represents the beginning of the shift to new possibilities, assimilating new information and creating new options. This requires the neocortex, which only comes into play when the fight-flight paralysis of the red stage dissipates. For me, this overlaps with Kubler-Ross’ Bargaining zone. The danger segment on the cycle of change is akin to the Depression stage where we may feel unable or unwilling to move forward because we feel anxious or confused or give up hope. When that happens, we can move back to the red zone and the beginning of the change cycle. However, when we learn from our experience and reframe our ‘failure’ as a ‘lapse’ or a ‘blip’, we more likely to progress onto the green section and Acceptance the next time.
- It is essential to focus on the present and about moving forwards deliberately by taking planned steps. Consider all the different options and make decisions that will move you forwards.
- Accept the feelings of anxiety which are normal – take them with you and avoid giving into them so that they become fear, returning us to the beginning of the cycle.
- Provide emotional support to those around you. Empathy is key.
The Freedom to Go Zone: Acceptance
Our sense of confidence and productivity increases. We have accepted that we must go on. We’re more focused and feel a greater sense of satisfaction. And we’ve increased our resilience.
- Guidance and direction help people navigate through this phase to reach a place where they feel competent.
This unpredicted and unprecedented change has caught us unaware but it’s now time we stop assuming the role of victim and take control. Share the cycle with your team. Explore where people are at; how do they know? What would help? What are each individuals’ steps to move forward, regardless of where they are currently?
For more information about understanding and navigating the change cycle, whether you’re part of a team or a manager, get in touch.
Gain a shared understanding about:
- How the brain processes change
- The stages of change
- What drives people’s thoughts, feelings and behaviour during change
- Understanding verbal and non-verbal behaviour as indicators of stages
- Language to improve communication
- The danger in the red zone; the fear response
- Building trust