The distress brought about change is often because of how it disrupts the stories we hold on to.
Recently my wife and I received some bad news.
The buyer for our property in Shanghai decided to pull out at the last minute, despite signing a contract and paying a deposit.
It felt like a punch to the gut.
Because since signing that contract, my wife and I had been gradually and unconsciously building a tower of expectations.
If we sell our Shanghai property, we can buy a nice big house in the UK with cash.
If we buy a nice big house with cash then we’ll lower our monthly expenses significantly.
Then we can save even more money, and buy more properties and live off the passive income…
And then…And then…And then…
These expectations built on top of each other like blocks in a Jenga tower.
But then, that buyer pulled a fundamental block out, and our tower collapsed.
Expectations are a type of belief.
And our beliefs link together and build on top of each other like that Jenga tower.
I have a job. That means I work on this project I like, and get paid a nice salary, and can look forward to achieving my career goals…
But then the CEO retires, a new one comes in, there’s a reorg, and our Jenga tower collapses.
It’s distressing seeing our expectations (our beliefs) lying in a mess on the floor, as opposed to a tower of hope.
It’s distressing because we no longer have that hope.
But also because we know we have to go through a painful and drawn out process of building a new tower of hope.
If you’re a leader, and your people are distressed by change, then think of how it’s toppled their towers of hope, the stories they held on to.
They’re now lost, and that’s painful.
They’re not going to recover fast (most of the time). But they can recover, with time.
So for now, the best you can do, is to listen, support and wait patiently as they collect new stories to guide them and build a new tower of hope.
(In the end, we were able to renegotiate with the buyer and keep the sale alive, although it does mean we have to slightly lower our tower of hope!)