The 6 Pillars to Curb Change Fatigue and Lead Change

By Ciara Lancaster|29-10-2020 | 5 Min Read

Change fatigue no longer adequately describes the compounding levels of exhaustion, stress and rumination that accompanies business transformation and rapid workplace change.

When change fatigue is commonplace in your organisation, your team or your own vernacular, then you need to shake yourself out of complacency and be on high alert. Change fatigue is a precursor to change overload and eventual burnout.

According to a Harvard Business Review article, which referenced a Harvard Medical School research study:
'Ninety-six percent of all senior leaders have experienced some degree of burnout, and one third described their condition as extreme (severe burnout).’

Think your organisation is going to be held responsible for your change fatigue and burnout? Think again. The pace of change is only going to speed up and the onus is on you to make sure you are resilient, ready and resourceful.

Read: Embracing Change

By conquering the six pillars below, you will increase your prosilience (how you intentionally prepare to deal with challenges); resilience (how you bounce back from adversity); and adaptiveness (how you pivot for greater effectiveness) for future change success.

Pillar 1: Realise your reality

Your preferred human change state, of which there are eight, determines your individual experience of change. If you want to set yourself up for success, then you need to open eyes to the realisation of what is taking place, why it is taking place, and the negative impact for both organisations and human beings.

Realise your reality is about:

  • Being aware that when change fatigue is left unaddressed, your individual change bandwidth will eventually reach a tipping point
  • Recognising that the onset of burnout starts with three lead indicators - you are drowning, disengaged and discouraged
  • Knowing that emotional contagion is a contributing factor to triggering and retriggering change fatigue and burnout in individuals and teams


Are you on the verge of drowning?


Pillar 2: Respond via your capability

When you are overloaded, overwhelmed and over it, it is easy to default to the status quo, shirk additional responsibilities or give up on yourself. Too often, you tend to forget how change capable and resilient you really are! It’s time to be accountable for your role in the change fatigue equation.

Respond via your capability is about:

  • Reflecting on what behaviours are holding you back
  • Redirecting your energy for greater impact by going deep on self-awareness, self-accountability and self-mobilisation strategies
  • Committing to levelling up how you approach change by shifting from a Change Survivor to a Change Optimiser mindset


Pillar 3: Reclaim your brain

When your brain is burned out and fried, the last thing you want is a lecture about stress management. What you need to know is how the brain responds in a constant state of overwhelm and how you can brace for further impact. The effects of transitioning from a hyper-alert, survival brain to a calmer, self-regulated brain underpins every other self-leadership pillar.

The good news is that learning about the brain doesn’t have to be boring either. It can be relayed through metaphors rather than through dense neuroscientific text books.

Reclaiming your brain is about:

  • Distinguishing between the experience of stress, overwhelm and homeostasis
  • Becoming curious about key-takeaways from advances in behavioral sciences
  • Arming yourself with new coping strategies aimed at diffusing anxiety


Pillar 4: Regenerate your body

Examples of emotional trauma in the workplace include events where you may have felt unaware, unprepared or powerless to prevent the event. This includes organisational stressors such as retrenchment, rapid business transformation and organisational change that impact your work identity, your job and how you are used to delivering your work. Trauma lives on inside our mind and body.

As distinguished scientist and author of The Polyvagal Theory, Dr. Stephen Porges, shares:
‘Trauma compromises our ability to engage with others by replacing patterns of connection with patterns of protection.’

Regenerate your body is about:

  • Disarming the ‘freeze nerves’ and activating the ‘ease nerves’ by prioritising emotional safety and high-quality connections
  • Zoning in on self-care with a focus on sleep prioritisation and fear minimisation
  • Engaging in self-compassion through boundary setting and loving-kindness practices


Pillar 5: Recode your mind

In a nutshell, the brain is like the hard drive of a computer; the mind is like the software in that it is able to be updated or recoded. Unfortunately, most of us are living with the equivalent of an inherited virus, thanks to our pre-programmed limiting beliefs. Often, this is where the seed of resistance resides and what is negatively impacting your change potential.

Recode your mind is about:

  • Spotlighting your personal blind spots in relation to your ego, biases, emotions and self-worth
  • Self-assessing whether you are intentionally choosing liberating, rather than limiting, change emotions
  • Self-acceleration through theta-hacking during pre-slumber and post-slumber brain wave states



Pillar 6: Reimagine your creativity

Change capability is more than self-belief and optimism, it’s about contribution, value exchange and being inspired by the process itself!

As the late Sir Ken Robinson said, ‘Human resources are like natural resources; they’re often buried deep. You have to go looking for them, they’re not just lying around on the surface. You have to create the circumstances where they show themselves.’ 

Reimagine your creativity is about:

  • Igniting your creative value not only to survive but to thrive in the future of work
  • Leveraging mindset magnifiers including: belief, energy, intention, imagination, creative thinking and design thinking
  • Knowing that regardless of your title or tenure, you are capable of making meaningful contributions through your unique voice, creative brilliance and collaborative spirit


Inspiring, leading and continuously adapting to change is no easy feat. When coaching is absent from your workplace, you need to take back control. Personal transformation is the powerful precursor to business transformation.

Read also: How to Create Intentional Change in Your Organisation

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Ciara Lancaster is a change fatigue and resilience specialist at Reimagine Change. Her focus is to help leaders at all levels to manage uncertainty, mitigate stress and modernise their mindset. She is also the author of the new book Reimagine Change: Escape change fatigue, build resilience and awaken your creative brilliance.
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