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Episode 5: "Space for Contemplation" - Jindy Mann




Where do you do your best thinking? Do you create time for it in your day or does it just happen on the spare of the moment? Do you even make time at all?


For me some of my most energising ideas came while walking to the office, waiting for a train, taking a walk for a coffee or out on a run. This thinking could take place because there were no important distractions – what I was physically doing could have been done on autopilot, so my mind was able to wander freely. It had space to think.


When the pandemic hit, all of a sudden, these moments were stolen away from me and all the parts of my life meshed into one. No physical boundaries between them but an increasingly claustrophobic boundary around all of them. At first I didn’t really notice it had happened – I was in survival mode. But as the weeks went by I realised just how much I was missing these brief but important moments of uninterrupted self-reflection. You see, in these moments we can find great inspiration – solutions or insights to challenges you have been mulling over in your mind. But without them we can move from one moment to the next just doing what is necessary.


Space, both mental and physical, is so critical to our work as change practitioners and it was great to have Jindy Mann, Founder of The Selfish Leader and executive coach, join us in the Change Chair to talk all things mind, body and soul when it comes to leading yourself and others through change. If you haven’t listened to the full episode go check it out – but for now, here are just some of the key discussion points:


Mental Space / Change Fatigue?

There is often a debate about whether people truly experience change fatigue or whether

perhaps it might be just another sign of resistance. Whatever we label it as, I think at the

heart of it is a sense of the individual being overwhelmed – to admit they have one too many

things to deal with where previously there was just some mild discomfort. If we look at

fatigue in a physical sense, it is the result of not stopping a certain body movement or action

coupled with that individual's muscular strength. The stronger you are at a certain action –

say like running – the further you can likely run before you experience fatigue or specifically

your muscles tire from the repetitive use.


Is mental fatigue really any different? Perhaps our capacity to stave off fatigue is simply a

function of how well we have conditioned ourselves to manage multiple tasks, knowing

when to say no to taking on more and ultimately avoiding overwhelm is about your own

awareness and listening to your emotions. This to me is actually the heart of why coaching

has some pretty powerful results – it raises your level of awareness as to what is going on

with you, how you are handling it and perhaps whether you are heading to a state of

overwhelm because you have become mentally fatigued.


For us as change practitioners, we need to be aware that a single change can have vastly

different results as to the level of overwhelm it causes. Why? Because, what individuals are

already dealing with and the extent to which they can take on more is an individual

capability which is also evolving. We would do well to recognise that, what may appear as

anger and frustration towards us or the project is likely that person realising they should

have stopped “running” and rested some time ago.


Just Stop

I believe that from a young age we become conditioned into believing that unless we are

doing something which has a meaningful output, we are unlikely to be doing something

worthwhile or something which will help us progress.


Setting and achieving goals is itself not a bad thing. I'm an avid list maker and I always have things on the to do list. But I'll be the first to admit that all the list making can at times be overwhelming, because it just reminds me how much I have ultimately said yes to do before

really considering whether I have the capacity. As such setting goals and pursuing them is a

vicious cycle if you are unaware when the list is creeping to be too big and you are no longer

allowing your brain to rest and revive.


This is actually at the heart of where overwhelm and fatigue comes. It is in believing that if

you keep going, plugging away at everything that comes at you, then somehow it will reward

you and that you perhaps will get better at juggling more things. Would this work for a

runner? A runner doesn’t run until they are about to drop before they take a break. They

condition themselves by progressively stretching their boundaries to a point where they

then rest before go again.


As change practitioners we not only experience this ourselves, we also recognise this is

exactly what perhaps we can end up doing to those impacted by change. We are adding one more thing for them to do without necessarily ensuring they have the mental capacity to

deal with it and the physical capacity to actually act upon it. Let’s be the ones to create that

thinking space for them and allow them the rest period they need to engage with what we

are asking of them.


Organisational Contemplation

Organisations fall into the habit of overloading employees with work so there isn’t much

time to think. Everyone is so busy doing, that what is being done is rarely an active decision

– people are just swept along with the tidal wave of action. Is this efficient though? Is it

rewarding? Is it effective?


Because things get done, those things can be measured and therefore it can be shown (or at

least believed with some evidence) that we are taking positive steps forward.


But if we never stop to think, and we just do, are we missing out on an alternative? One of

the major reasons I believe change fails to take place in organisations (or at least is certainly

slowed down) is that there is so little capacity. So little time.


People don’t truly have for themselves the time to consider what might be and how they

might interact with it. What we are often doing in our role is trying to squeeze people for

just a little more of their time while trying to serve them up enough of what we need them

to know.


But what if organisations baked in “contemplation” time. A portion of everyone's week to actively think about things that are frustrating them, niggling them, bothering them ect with a view to arriving at insights / ways forward? Contemplation as an organisational

competency is something Jindy is actually on a mission to try and make real. Why? Because

making any change requires time, because without it choosing what and how to implement

changes becomes even harder - so much so sometimes you admit defeat and give up.


The space we create as change practitioners within change programmes is almost certainly a

welcome breath of fresh air – perhaps it could actually even be an actual physical breath –

for busy people so we must fight for it and of course make it as appealing and engaging as

possible. The moment we get caught up with the tidal wave is the moment we have

succumbed to the organisational machine grinding out every last min of “work”. Let’s not go

there.


If there is one thing I have taken away from this 18 months of enforced isolation and remote work is that, physical boundaries serve up to us natural moments to give other deeper thoughts, time to surface. Without them, we can easily take for granted these moments and find ourselves on a road to a level of fatigue and burnout.


As change leaders, not only must we actively ensure we have meaningful and frequent reflection time ourselves to stay race fit, we must also ensure that organisations, certainly within the change programmes we lead, create this space to avoid change fatigue and individual overwhelm. It is our responsibility to not only make change management an organisational capability. But also to support the development of contemplation as an individual competency in the people we work with to transform the organisations to be able to deal more effectively with planned and unplanned changes.


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