The “R” word

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Liv Wilson
December 6, 2019

Leading brilliantly through change

Admission time. I’m a child of the 80s. This brings with it an appreciation of double denim, cheesy movies, and the ability to repair a cassette tape with nothing but a pencil. It also means I have some formative memories of the economic woes of New Zealand in the late-80s. I remember going to a friend’s birthday party, and overhearing the adults talking; my friend’s dad had just been... (whispering behind a hand)... made redundant.

The poor man! How will he find another job? How will he support his family? As a result, I grew up thinking this weird ‘R’ word was something to be feared, and this skewed my perception of it once I went into corporate life. I reacted to my first disestablishment with tears and fear.

It’s safe to say times have changed. In 21 years, I’ve been through a further 14 restructures, my role has been disestablished at least eight times, and, in the last six years, I’ve been made redundant three times. I literally followed the meeting about my most recent redundancy listening to AC/DC and eating a Snickers (once a child of the 80s...).

So, my thoughts about this 'R' word aren't about the fear anymore, they're about the benefits - with some insight thrown in for good measure.

“Welcome to the party, pal.”

— John McClane, Die Hard

I’ve had a pretty eclectic career, and each redundancy has allowed me to try something a little different and refine what I want to do with my time. I did L&D in insurance, so redundancy one took me into a specific insurance role. Back to L&D, and redundancy two saw me leave the banking/insurance industries and get into telecommunications. Redundancy three will see me move into a hybrid of consulting and permanent employment. Redundancies or restructures are the ideal time to reflect on what you’re really looking for in a job.

Tips for you:

  • The change means you get to revisit where you learnt through failure, where you can stretch yourself in the next role, and what new adventure you will steer yourself to next.
  • I advocate the use of a good old fashioned pro/con list. It's time to be honest with yourself; consider what you actually enjoy about your role, and figure out how you can get more of that (and less of the work on the "con" side of the list). This opportunity to change doesn’t come around too often. Grab it.

Tips for leaders of change:

  • Reinforce the silver lining of a new opportunity - use the information you know about your people, their passions, and goals to connect with them on this level (check out this great article about how amazing 1:1s can be).
  • Further enable the people who see change as something to be embraced and point them in the direction where they can help others. Use them as a sounding board for any communication and listen to their advice.
“Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

— Man in Black, The Princess Bride

I'd be lying if I said that restructures are painless. The sting of rejection (whether you express an interest in an alternative role or not), the confusion around what will happen next, and the disruption to your life is intense. It's easy to retreat into yourself and wave the white flag of surrender.

Each restructure has hit me differently - but I’ve learnt one thing across them all... support from others can make all the difference. To the point that I'm catching up for a pre-Christmas drink with people who went through a change with me a couple of years ago. We share an experience which means we're more connected, and that feeling isn't going anywhere.

Tips for you:

Tips for leaders of change:

  • Recognise that this stuff isn’t easy. Suggest some time away from the office for breathing space, and encourage your people to talk - to each other, to you, or to a counseling service.
  • Also, for those of you leading any change, recognise that finances play a big part in your team member’s lives and they’ll be curious about any impact. Know the facts about their entitlements (including any non-financial ones, like retraining allowances) and be transparent with them.

There you have it - it's not a magic formula, but it's worked well for me. This child of the 80s is reclaiming the 'R' word!

“If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.”

— Marty McFly, Back to the Future

Need some support navigating your team through change with care and empathy? Then Five would love to have a conversation with you.

Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash

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December 6, 2019
December 6, 2019

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