Change is all in the mind

By Ella Lee

Once they know how personalities work, individuals and organisations find it easier to effect change

ICAN model
Source: Whole Person Development Institute

Organisations today are required to be flexible and ready to adapt quickly to the changing environments in which they operate. This ability to embrace change at a corporate level depends on individual members of the workforce being able to cope with stress and meet whatever challenges they face. For this, training in the very latest technical skills is essential, but even more important is the need to address the mindset and psychological well-being of employees to ensure they are suitably prepared to deal with change.

A person's state of mind creates happiness and determines success, according to Dr Wong Chung Kwong, chairman of the board of advisors for the Whole Person Development Institute (WPDI). He also believes that if someone knows how to effect a change in their way of thinking it can open a window to new possibilities for success and achievement. "It is a matter of balancing the external changes with an adjustment of the internal mindset," he says.

Dr Wong was previously professor and chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He has given over 3,000 lectures, seminars and workshops, participated in 600 TV programmes about mental health, and published over 60 scientific articles in psychiatric journals and books. Besides that, he has acted as an expert psychiatric witness in over 500 civil and criminal cases in the High Court of Hong Kong.

Four parts
Dr Wong explains that there are four major psychological components in any personality: perception, emotion, behaviour and self-value. In his opinion, each is of equal importance in maintaining a personality which functions effectively. Someone's psychological response to change is reflected in behaviour, which is driven by emotion and determined by one's self-value and how one perceives the meaning of change. It is generally easy to alter perceptions, but these can be affected by a disturbance of the emotions.

He also points out that although self-value is central to one's personality, it can be affected by reflections on one's own behaviour and the outcomes which result.

To become masters of our own personalities depends on a circular process of self-empowerment. This begins when each person gains insights about their inner self and their circumstances, and follows on by confirming their goals and value as well as the improvement they need to make. On completing these two steps, any individual should be motivated to acquire the essential abilities they need and to go through a continuous process of nurturing. These elements – insights, confirmation, abilities and nurture – form the acronym for the ICAN paradigm developed by Dr Wong.

He firmly believes that people can develop their personality and control their own lives more effectively by applying the ICAN model. From an organisational perspective, it also allows people to be empowered and helps in the creation of a capable, reliable and dedicated workforce.

A number of coaching methods and specific strategies can be employed to teach people about empowerment. These include thought reframing, mood regulation, fear reduction, mediation and relaxation. Imagery and visualisation exercises are also employed to help mobilise, revitalise and unleash people's inner potential and to promote personal growth and success.

In addition to empowerment, WPDI also emphasises the importance of creating connections between people and promoting personal development. The former involves building and integrating high-performing teams which are aligned with an organisation's core values. The latter is intended to unlock the potential of employees by encouraging continuous growth and learning throughout the organisation.

Strategic advice
As a consultant, WPDI offers professional advice and psychological strategies to help senior managers analyse the problems they face and realise their business objectives. For example, it has helped one major local contractor transform into a developer in order to take advantage of broader opportunities in the property market.

WPDI also works with HR departments to design tailor-made workshops and seminars for staff training and development. One client, a major local bank, has sought assistance in developing a team of hundreds of change facilitators. They were selected from different departments and are now responsible for driving change within the bank and supporting other members of staff.

Having gained extensive experience in advising various public and private organisations, Dr Wong says that the problems encountered by clients differ greatly and each requires a specific solution. Nevertheless, "mind coaching" is always a factor in helping them to embrace change successfully.

For an organisation to sustain change, it must be prepared to take appropriate measures to modify its operations. In many cases, this means establishing better channels for communication and creating a culture which is open and cooperative. "Whether you are working with individuals or organisations, there should be an awareness of the need for change and of the methods to be used," says Dr Wong. He adds that once people have learned how to manage change and have gained a certain momentum, they should take the next step by helping others to change.

Points to note

  • Understanding how the mind works is an essential step in any change process
  • The ICAN model is able to guide individuals and organisations through change
  • Coaching methods involve specific strategies to teach empowerment
  • Change also requires a culture based on cooperation and open communication

  • Taken from Career Times 08 July 2005
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