Can you transform a crisis into a springboard?

In our last blog, our lovely client Laura talked about how transforming the way she communicates her business has helped her transform the way she does business during the lockdown.

(Check it out here if you haven’t read it – five great ‘lessons from lockdown’ on how to pivot, complete with actions you can take right now.)

Without those changes, Laura might not be trading at all right now. Her sector is one that has been forced to close completely. But she has maintained, and even grown, her business AND improved her work-life balance – so much so that she says she has no intention of going back to the “old normal”. 

Just think about that for a second. Pivoting in a sudden crisis has turned out to be so much more than survival. It has provided a long-term legacy for Laura’s business and her future.

After 20 years of working in crisis communications, I am unshakeably convinced that every crisis leaves a positive legacy. And so, turning a crisis into an opportunity is something every single one of us can do – business owner, corporate manager, employee. All of us. But how?

First, the science

Don’t worry, this isn’t a fluffy piece that tries to convince you that all you have to do is smile your way through a situation that we all know is bloody difficult.

Nope, this is a practical and proven ‘lesson’ designed to help you take action now to help you springboard from this crisis into a place that could be better than where you were before it.

It starts with a psychological model, one you may well have come across before.  It’s the globally recognised curve defined more than 50 years ago by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, called The Five Stages of Grief.

Designed originally to improve medical training for new doctors on managing terminally ill patients, it is now widely adopted to represent the process of any change. And it’s in that context that it applies to you right now, in your business or your workplace.

It’s worth first considering a few principles of the change curve, to better use it a tool for business recovery.

Many of you will be familiar with the stages of the change curve. They sometimes have different labels, but they include emotions like shock, denial, and acceptance.

But the curve goes much deeper than just that – thanks to its two measures, which are far less talked about.

The first thing you need to know about the change curve

First of all, the curve reminds us that any loss is a process. From bereavement to a change in circumstances, there is a dip we go through – and it’s virtually impossible to jump that curve. 

So, yes, it’s okay to feel all negative emotions as you go through change. It’s only right that you should be kind to yourself when you feel sad – because it’s a form of grieving, it’s normal, and it’s not a sign of weakness. 

It’s also completely normal to go backwards and forwards on the curve. It’s not a linear journey. And, yes, it might be frustrating to feel like you’ve dipped back down into the curve when yesterday you were feeling so upbeat – but it is okay, and it will pass.

The second thing you need to know about the change curve 

And that leads us to the second big lesson the curve teaches us…that it’s not just about the stages we go through, but also about the impact and duration of the curve. 

The change curve sits on two axes: 

The X axis (horizontal) measures the time it takes to go through the curve.

And the Y axis (vertical) measures the impact it has on you or your business or your performance – and that’s about how deep the dip of the curve goes.

And here is where your opportunity sits. You can’t alter the process – that’s governed by human nature. But can you do something about the axes? 

Can you control the impact or the timescale?

The first thing any business leader asks when faced with change or crisis, accepting the process as a given, is this – can we minimise the dip and / or can we contract the duration?

One of the most stressful things about this crisis, of course, is that you have no idea about the duration. No one knows. 

So, there’s nothing you can do about duration nor the stages you go through – and strangely enough, that’s good news for your mindset. You can’t influence it, so why subject yourself to the stress of trying to do so?

But the dimension that’s left – the impact this has on your life, business or job – well, that’s all to play for. 

If crisis does indeed leave a legacy, what do you want that legacy to be for you?

The third – and best – thing to know about the change curve

Focusing on the part of the change curve you CAN do something about is the best chance you have to achieve this third principle…

Manage the change curve well, and you can exit the curve at a higher performance point than you entered it.  

Again, think back to Laura’s story in last week’s blog. Changing the way she communicates, and shifting her business model accordingly, means she has reinvigorated her passion for her business. She can serve more clients than ever before. She can scale and grow her business without limit.

So how do you set your path to exit the change curve at a higher performance point? There are three things you can start to do right now:

  1. Do the inner work. Think about how you communicate with yourself about this crisis…are you in control of how you respond emotionally? Are you careful about the language you use, and the information you consume, for example?
  2. Think about how you are communicating with others. Are you motivating your team well? Are you keeping your audience engaged and embraced? Are you making sure you stay visible to your boss and your colleagues, even when you’re working from home? (We have FREE ‘teach-ins’ on all these topics – check them out by clicking on each one. 
  3. Get practical. Make sure your business is ready to restart at a moment’s notice. That might mean preparing your premises, or it might mean doing the mini brand audit you’ve been meaning to get around to for months.  It doesn’t matter WHAT it is; what matters is that you are focused and flexing, building your mental and business readiness to flick that trading switch straight back on. Be ready to travel fast along the change curve’s up-tick – it will give you so many advantages.

Once you better understand the change curve, the better you can respond to it, live through it, and leave it in the strongest possible position to get more of the results you want – on the other side of it. 

You really can transform a crisis into a springboard.

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Until next time, stay safe and well.

Lucy & Emma xx

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