Emotional intelligence and change

March 4th, 2019

Changing how you do things is relatively easy. Changing how you feel can be much more complex.

In her second blog post in a Leadership and Management Academy (LMA) series looking at change management, Jaspal Kaur, Director of HR, explores the impact of emotional intelligence during change (you can read the previous post here).

“Looking back on a number of key University changes that have happened in the past, one of the key themes that comes up again and again is that change can’t succeed if we don’t take account of the emotional impact that’s felt by people affected by a change.

In the videos that make up part of the managing change online resources Vice-Chancellor Shearer West says, ‘You can’t make people feel differently, but you can understand why they feel the way they do and try to work with them to help them through that.’

I think this speaks to the heart of how we need to manage change at the University. When we are changing the way we work, we need to acknowledge that there will be an emotional reaction to the change, and we need to remember that everyone is different in their reactions. How quickly we accept a change, how strongly we resist it and how we behave during it, will be both individual and personal to us, and influenced by our previous experiences both inside and outside of work.

As leaders and managers, we need to be aware of this as we work on any change project; we will be feeling a personal reaction to the change, and the people we work with will also be reacting too, in potentially very different ways.

This is where the idea of emotional intelligence becomes so important. People with higher emotional intelligence are more able to identify their own emotions, regulate them appropriately for the situation and empathise with others.

For example, we’ve all been in a situation where a change is explained to us and we’re not completely convinced that this is the right thing to do. As leaders, our emotional reactions and how we demonstrate them to the people affected by the change can have a huge impact. A positive, pragmatic response can set the scene for reducing the negative reactions others feel and give space for us to understand their reactions.

It’s when we understand the emotional reactions to change, work with them and identify what’s a normal part of processing a change, helping people through this, that we can start to make the journey of change easier for all involved.

That’s what the change management resources that the Leadership and Management Academy have developed are all about. They aim to helping you understand how people react to change, providing tools to support the smoother transition through change for everyone involved.”

Want to find out more? Take a look at the next post in this mini-series about change management: ‘Changing whilst you change‘.

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