2020 started out with a bang!
I had lined up a variety of exciting work to keep me busy for the better part of the year. It was promising to be a good year…..no….a GREAT year! In fact, I had claimed it as “MY year!” 2020 was going to be the year Mbele would take off.
Then came March and the first Covid-19 case in Kenya and everything for me came to a complete halt. I mean EVERYTHING. All the work, I had taken years to line up, was either put on hold indefinitely or cancelled as the country went into lockdown mode.
At first I didn’t think much of it. We were approaching April and I had already planned to take a few weeks off to be with my son during the Easter school break.
April came and went. May came and went…and things weren’t looking promising. Then it was June and still no change. I was like an animal in head lights. Frozen…not knowing what to do with myself, just watching the days go by….
Looking back, my experience the past year is a textbook example of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ “Change Curve” outlining the 4 emotional stages of change - Denial, Resistance, Exploration and Commitment.
I realized that even though I teach about change and help leaders manage change, I am by no means immune to these emotions. Like so many other leaders, I went through each of the four emotional stages.
Denial is the first stage in the Kubler-Ross Model where we tend to put up a temporary defence mechanism in order to process certain disturbing news or reality.
Like many others, it took me a while to understand and internalize what Covid-19 meant for me, for Mbele and society at large. Those first couple of months, I unconsciously chose to ignore thinking and talking about what it meant for my business and shifted all my energy into supporting my 9-year old son adapt to online schooling.
I was in denial about what the pandemic meant for my business. I told myself this would blow over and things would go back to “normal.”
Resistance to change begins as we realize that the change is actually taking place and there is no way to avoid it. During this stage, feelings like anger, self-doubt, fear and anxiety tend to build up.
The resistance stage lasted a couple of months for me. I knew that I would have to pivot my business to have more of an online presence but I resisted. I really didn’t want to and I made all kinds of excuses to myself and others.
“I am no good at online training and coaching.” “My strength as a trainer and coach is my personality, my presence and my interactive approach.” “My approach would never work online.” “I can’t compete with everyone else out there offering online programs.”
These months were probably the most unproductive months of my lifetime. I really didn’t accomplish much. I resisted with all my heart. Until I no longer could resist…
The exploration phase is where we, even if we haven’t fully accepted the change, start experimenting and learning new ways which contribute towards the change.
For me, this was a challenging but interesting and exciting time. Something of a roller coaster ride. I would fluctuate between being really excited and motivated about the possibilities to feeling totally overwhelmed and at times even paralyzed by the options. Where do I begin? What will it take to pivot?
I started slowly. I started slowly to accept that I needed to actively pivot my business to adapt to our new environment. I was conscious of the fact that I needed to stay true to my purpose and values but also that I needed to explore different online teaching and coaching options. I started listening to podcasts, reading articles and signing up for online programs to explore different ideas I had.
I started exploring possibilities and slowly began to regain my confidence.
Commitment is the final stage of the change curve, when productivity and emotional normalcy is restored. It is the acceptance of the “new” normal.
I’m now feeling that I am finally getting to this stage. I have been working hard behind the scenes to develop and pilot some exciting new online training and coaching offerings which I am about to launch. I have also been working on my marketing strategy, updating my website, building an email list and with this blog I am launching my first ever blog. Yes, this is my first ever blog!
Moving from stage to stage
The hardest transition is moving from the resistance stage to the exploration stage. So what made me move from resistance to exploration? Well, time for one. Those of you who know me, know that I cannot sit around and wait forever. Something had to happen. So I started taking small steps. One step at a time.
If you are facing a similar situation, why don't you download my free resource “8 manageable steps to overcome obstacles.” This is a brief step by step guide on how you can breakdown seemingly difficult situations into bite-size manageable chunks and achieve results.
“Problems often look overwhelming at first. The secret is to break problems into small, manageable chunks. If you deal with those, you’re done before you know it.”
- Bill Waterson
So what is my takeaway from this experience?
I could beat myself up for “losing” so many valuable months but what would be the point? This was my Covid-19 journey and I may as well accept it for what it was.
Hopefully I have made it through and am stronger for it. I believe I am. I believe Mbele is.
I have had the luxury to work on my business behind the scenes, to play around with different ideas, pilot new approaches, fail, try again and as a result expand and refine my offerings. How often do we get to work ON our business instead of working IN it?
So maybe 2020 was my year after all...