Change is one of those words that either inspires excitement at the prospect of new innovation, or dread at the prospect of heavier workloads and altering priorities to meet the new goalposts. The whole purpose of change is to bring about transformation to get an organisation one step closer to the ideal business state—to create better customer experiences, to increase employee engagement and ultimately to positively impact the bottom-line commercials. The realities of the past two years has changed the face of organisations with dramatic flow-on effect for teams and in particular executive assistants. Managing stressed executives, competing priorities, uncertain teams and shifting projects have become par the course. Many of these individual elements are challenging enough to deal with but when coupled with additional challenges such as remote working, leadership change and possibly home schooling, it’s fair to say that EAs have been under the pump and expected to play a pivotal role in the running of departments and organisations.
Change fatigue has started to manifest itself in many organisations, with employees feeling the strain of constant change. Characterised by mental and physical exhaustion, a distinct lack of enthusiasm and a lack of optimism about the change, Change fatigue is a real risk to the continued effective operation of any organisation. As time passes, the more this fatigue sets in and the harder it becomes to show resilience in the face of ongoing changes. It can cause performance to drop and presents significant challenges to the leadership teams that EAs support. Whilst many of the changes brought on by the pandemic and our digital transformation are here to stay, there are practical ways in which EAs can support themselves and their wider teams to deal with the unpredictability of a modern organisation.
Mindfulness helps us to bring awareness to any given situation—it helps us to wake up and become more conscious of how we choose to respond to life’s challenges. The more we practice mindfulness, the more we build and align our inner resources, which in-turn helps us to manage and strengthen our resilience as change occurs. Our mental state impacts upon how we react to an already challenging situation and our natural instinct is to dwell on the negative or become distracted at work, especially during times of crisis. By building our natural resilience through mindfulness though, we’re helping to notice our own thoughts and and quickly rebalance ourselves through disassociation with negative thought patterns. It’s almost like recalibrating our expectations by practicing focusing our minds on the present, not on the distractions surrounding us.
Just like our bodies, our brains are wonderful muscles that are shaped by the way in which we train them. In the same way that a fitness expert trains their body through regular exercise and healthy eating to improve their shape, strength, circulation and physical endurance, a person who practices mindfulness will train and form new and positive connections between the neurons of their brain. The more the body is properly exercised and nourished the healthier it becomes and the mind is no different.
There are simple practice methods you can use ‘on the go’ to develop your brain’s neuroplasticity, keeping you mentally fitter to manage change and transformation.
- You are likely often engaged in multiple projects, whilst holding confidential information of changes taking place that are causing stress. Taking a moment to apply SBNRR—Stop, Breathe, Notice, Reflect, Respond—to a situation that may be inflammatory, is an effective method to take the heat out of a moment. It may just be a simple case of re-arranging clashing meetings, or a technology failure in a critical presentation – taking moment to be mindful at a critical point will have a significant impact on your response.
- You will be used to planning but how often do you plan your responses to the triggers that may set you on edge? Take a moment to think about what stresses you the most – those little things, which in isolation are tiny, but when added together can really push your buttons? Planning to respond with kindness and consideration instead of reacting in haste. Most importantly, feel how much less stressful a more mindful reaction can be. Little changes to your thoughts, actions and behaviours can have a huge impact on your ability to be more resilient to change or stressful situations.
- Take a moment. Maintaining high energy in a busy role doesn’t leave you much opportunity for introspection. Reserving just five precious moments to complete a short meditation can help reset your energy and bring back your focus.
Sabina Vitacca is founder of Meditate Now and a mindfulness writer for Executive PA Media