Skill Level Intermediate
- They say change is the only constant, and most people don't like change. Well I think that's half correct. To be sure, there are a lot of change efforts at work that fail because the effort wasn't planned well. Employees had no voice in the process or the right resources weren't in place. This reality makes many employees jaded whenever any manager starts talking about change. But it's also true that humans get stuck in ruts. Employees find comfort in the routines that define their day. Anything that upsets those routines just might be met with resistance.
So what can you do to overcome that tendency and personally deal with change successfully? Especially unexpected, difficult change. Good research and common sense tell us that attitude is everything. In sports, the elites have been studied. We know much about how they think and how they behave. They relentlessly focus on the positive perspective. Framing things in a way that speaks to opportunities to be realized instead of tough challenges to be dreaded. They plan and adjust as needed, never believing that what they are today is who they need to be tomorrow.
And the very same traits are found in great leaders. If you don't follow this advice, you know what, you become the professor who appears completely irrelevant to his students. Using 20 year old examples that don't really apply anymore. You become the company that ultimately fails because they believe customers will love the same product tomorrow that they love today. Doesn't have to be that way. You can learn to make change work for you. Coping with change and embracing change is a skill.
It starts with building an identity bigger than only your professional identity. Even if you love what you do, that's too narrow. Healthy people have multiple positive identities in addition to their professional identity. This might include father or volunteer. Or maybe basketball coach. Whatever it is, remember that to stay healthy, you need to be more than just one thing. Next, listen to the age old advice about counting your blessings. There's no mystery to share here.
You just need to do what many people neglect to do. Periodically stop and reflect on the many specific things you're lucky to have in your life. A person who supports multiple positive identities in life and remembers to take stock of the things they're lucky to have in life is exactly the type of person who has the best odds of successfully navigating change. Okay, now when change actually hits, whether it's a merger you never saw coming and the new boss that comes with it. Or if it's the loss of your job that you didn't expect.
I want you to react in three simple ways that will help you make change more about possibilities instead of pains. First, remember to think before you act. When big change hits, don't make hasty decisions. Your emotions will be on overdrive. So here's the rule. No big decisions for at least 48 hours. Depending on what's happened, you'll be thinking about your team, your house, your finances, your family. You name it. Resist making quick decisions on any of these for at least 48 hours.
Next, when the shock is gone, it's time to start adjusting. To begin facing your new normal. This begins with a passionate commitment to being positive. You have make the choice to be better, not bitter. Think about that choice consciously. First thing in the morning, every day following a big change. Finally, of course you have to take action. I want you to think about a multimonth plan of attack loaded with specific tasks and deadlines. Depending on the nature of the change, the task will be different.
If there are problems with the new boss, this might include learning how to initiate tough conversations. Or, if you're out of work, you might be spending a lot of time becoming laser-focused on networking. This all might sound pretty easy in the abstract, but believe me easy becomes very difficult when you're stressed out and dealing with the unexpected. That's why it's so inspiring to witness someone deal with change and adversity effectively.