Ep. 004 Change Through Grief And Hardship



Change through grievingMaureen Bridget Rabotin, Certified Global Executive Coach

Founding director of Effective Global Leadership, Inc., Maureen is a StrengthsFinder © certified Global Executive Coach, an Intercultural Leadership Development Consultant and keynote speaker.  Author of Culture Savvy – working and collaborating across the globe (ASTD 2011) and co-author of  The World Book of Values (2013),  she accompanies her clients as they navigate the currents of globalization. With several years of managerial experience in global organizations, Maureen shares her knowledge of emotional and cultural intelligence and her passion for neuroscience to enable her clients to build bridges across cultural, linguistic, generation and gender divides. Her clients include FAO (United Nations), The Global Fund, BNP Paribas, Arcelor Mittal, Peugeot Citroen and Oracle.

Change Management Through GriefI use this quotation now that I am older and can no longer sing my favorite song from “the King & I”:

Whenever I feel afraid, I whistle a happy tune

Change does carry with it an element of being afraid. We need to let go of what we have known, drop our security blankets and take a leap of faith into the unknown. No matter how fast we think or how slow we adapt, our brains simply don’t like change. As the saying goes: Practice makes perfect and that is exactly what your brain wants. It wants to know, understand, have its bearings, not be asked to second guess the environment. When you do so, you put yourself out of your comfort zone. Feeling afraid is the normal human reaction to self-protection.

I have had to change and adapt several times in my life. Some of the more ordinary changes of going away to college, leaving friends as I moved across town, to different States, then one day, moving to France after having flunked French in high school. Now that was a leap of faith.

In retrospect, those were the easy changes. My first career was in the medical diagnostic industry installing CT Scanners. That’s what brought me to France. It also became my life’s passion as machines started to open a new field of neuroimaging and influenced the field of neuroscience. We are only at the beginning of amazing discoveries and enthralling evidence of how our brain reacts to change.  So, I know a lot about change. I teach change management and coach clients on their limiting beliefs which hinder their adaptation to changing environments. I thought I knew it all until during a 5-year span, I was put on the change roller coast of all times – successive deaths of loved ones.

From a quick unexpected passing away of my aging father at 92 followed by an otherwise healthy husband just getting ready for our empty nest when I suddenly found myself in an empty house.  Then my brother, followed by my mother, both from illness which were worsened with what was most likely a broken heart.

Knowing that losing a loved one is considered one of the most stressful events a person can experience; I don’t have to tell you how stressful it is losing 4 in a 5-yr span. So, when the grief was harnessed, I turned to my change management theories.

Kubler-Ross curve may come to mind for some of you. This was originally the 4 stages of the grief cycle which was adopted into the change management industry as a way of introducing the emotional shifts during change. I looked hard at the time and the self-esteem axis. I told myself, just give yourself time. Don’t rush into anything. Time went by and I was still at the bottom of the barrel of unhappiness. So then I read up on what I know about neuroscience, especially the S.C.A.R.F. model of change which explains the push and pull towards or away from a threat zone which will impact one’s emotional stability. That confirmed what I was feeling, but didn’t make me feel any better. So I turned to the ADKAR method for resistance and need of communicating and coaching so I signed up to a widow’s organization which was not for me. The question: what a woman to do came repeated itself like a broken record in my mind. Then as luck would have it, I was speaking at a conference in Washington, D.C. and had the opportunity to participate in a StrengthsFinder© coach certification offered by Gallup.

I had read the book in 2008 and now it was 2013. Why not go I asked myself, I didn’t have anyone waiting for me at home.  So off I went to yet another personal development course. But this one changed my life. I learned my 34 innate talents that if used would be developed into a strength. When not used, a strength will remain in a raw state or an immature state and you won’t feel the fulfillment of being in the flow of your natural talents. Having done the assessment, I learned that there are 5 Signature Strengths which are the determining factors of what you want to use to be at your best followed by the 7 other strengths referred to as Dominant. Together the Top 12 strengths define what you bring to the world in way of talent and what you need from others in order to be at your best. My dominant strengths are: Strategic, Self-assurance, Activator, Adaptability and Ideation. The dominant strengths are: Maximizer, Positivity, Relator, Learner, Achiever, Command, Input.

Without going into too much detail as to what this means, it is more important to explain how this knowledge influenced my ability to integrate the changes in my life. Here I was waiting around, giving myself time but no strategy as to how I saw my future. This deepened my sense of directionlessness. Strategy is my number 1 strength. I needed to make plans for the future. That would in turn give me the self-assurance to see my options. I kept playing music by a group called Bruise: “Everything will be alright” which increased my belief in myself., that I can manage and I will be alright.  Then with Activator, Adaptability and Ideation, I started brain storming all my options and launching projects one at a time to see which I could best adapt to. This is sometimes called the transition stage where we bounce off walls while experimenting in all directions. For me, it was so much better than just sitting and waiting for my self-esteem to return after a certain amount of time. This is a strengths-based approach to change. You can do the assessment online or buy the book which contains a code to go online. If you don’t want to do the Gallup’s Clifton StrengthsFinder, there is also research being done by the UPenn and Martin Seligman called Values in Action or via.org

From these assessments you can identify what you wants and needs to better adapt to whatever changes you encounter. As we know now, the only constant in life is change.

Change Through Grief And Hardship

Maureen’s Quotes

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” M.Cabot.”

Her Favorite Book

Her Contact Information

6 Tips for Going Through Change in Times of Grief and Hardship

We all go through different periods of changes in our lives from leaving home for school, moving to new places, and working in new areas. Other times, change occurs in the form of unexpected difficult events and causes us to get stuck.

Maureen Bridget Rabotin, Certified Global Executive Coach, joined me to chat about how to change during difficult times. Maureen and I have a lot in common as certified executive coaches and moving to different countries, so I’m thrilled to be able to share her thoughts with you.

After going through major unexpected changes in her own life from losing her father to her husband, Maureen decided to apply what she knew about change management from her career to the grief and hardship in her own life.

  1. Realize that Your Needs are Unique

Maureen had the opportunity to get certified in Strength Finders and she happily took it. After five years of huge transition, her major strengths were the same! While she’d been looking at her change theory, telling herself that it just took time and certain change management tools, little of it was working. Looking at her strengths again made Maureen realized that because being strategic was one of her biggest strengths, she shouldn’t be waiting around for change. She needed to put things into action.

We all have different needs when it comes to change. What works for you might not work for someone else.

Start with your strengths and values. As you develop those, you become stronger. You can get a free values assessment at VIA.org. When you get these core values, you will know what’s going to anchor you in troubling times. Maybe it’s spirituality or maybe it’s competitiveness. Your values will vary from other people. Finding your values can be your buoy during change because change will always come and when it does, it’s a rapid change.

  1. Increase Your Self-Awareness

Instead of withdrawing from change, ask yourself, what can I learn about myself that will help me move forward? We can always learn more about ourselves.

Sometimes your brain can’t function when you have all this stress going on. You’re not losing your mind, your brain just wants to know what’s happening. It needs to get its bearings. We can so often confuse this with depression.

We are not connected to ourselves and our own core values. This is why change can be so difficult. We don’t know what we need to honor at any time. Begin to discover what’s ok and what’s not ok as you’re going through hardship. You can only be as strong as your body allows and that’s ok.

  1. Accept Your Journey

Think about butterflies. If we were to cut open a struggling butterfly’s cocoon to help it get out, it would never learn to fly. In the same way, you need to go through your own metamorphosis.

Change is about making the decision to be ok with what’s going on. It’s important to understand that change is part of life and you have the choice of whether it will be a positive or negative experience.

Maureen learned to take her work seriously, but never herself. Make light of situations. You need to stumble in order to learn to walk. If you’re kind to yourself, you’ll get through it.

  1. Focus on Connection

In today’s world, we can actually see the brain function. We can see sadness. We can see positivity. What neuroscience has learned is that social isolation is as painful as a broken bone. We are connected as human beings. We may need 1 or we may need 100 people. That’s up to you, but we all need connection.

Change is the only constant, so why does it seem so difficult? Gandhi shared that we’ve never been so connected to technology and disconnected to people.

As you find yourself, you find the people you want to be around. Make time to find the people you want to connect with.

  1. Be There for Others

If you have people around you that are in a period of grief, don’t be too much of a cheerleader. You can do it! You’ll get over this! Instead of trying to force happiness, be heartfelt. Be there for them.

We don’t have to be smile until you die. You can have a woe is me day, that’s alright. It’s ok if you’re not ok and soon that will be ok. If we try to help people too much, they’ll become dependent on us. It’s just like the butterfly!

  1. Show Your Emotions

In society we crave happiness so much that we end up not sharing how we feel because we’re uncomfortable with feeling anything else. There is no one way you should feel.

We can’t go into the cocoon, hide, and come out suddenly. We have to change in front of everyone. That’s part of what makes it difficult.

Remember to welcome and embrace change as it is the only constant. It is my hope that these tips will help you accept change and begin your journey toward something truly incredible.


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