Five Tips to Navigate and Benefit from Change

The only constant is change. Change and progress are inevitable. Change is vital and necessary. Yes, all these statements are true. Yet, this does not make dealing with the disruption, the ambiguity, the fear, and the concern of how change will effect each of us, easy. Let’s face it – change can be scary, unsettling, AND hard. So what can we, as leaders, do to help make the most of this change – both for ourselves AND our teams? Here are a few tips and truisms to remember as change permeates the organization AND how you can impact your responses to the shift.

1. Change the Frame. There is always something we can learn (and teach) from our experiences; and this organizational change is one such experience. It is vital that we remember these basics when facing change.

First, we must realize and embrace that we are NOT defined by the job or position we hold. Often we get completely absorbed into our job or company. In fact, I had one individual recently share with me that their identity was indeed the company for which they worked. I ‘get’ this concept (and lived it at one time in my career), and in fact I wrote a story about a person in Seat 5E who shared the same dilemma. This story has become one of the most popular in my first book “Is This Seat Taken?”  as so many of us can relate to it. When we leave one fabulous successful stint in a company, we wonder if we will ever have that again. We wonder if we will ever be able to recreate that level of success again.  This leads us to the next step in moving forward and changing the frame…..

Stop comparing this new chapter with the old chapter – good or bad. There are no comparisons, thankfully. We are a compilation of all our experiences, and this new chapter will be a completely new experience in many ways. WOW – how liberating when we allow ourselves to embrace this concept.

And finally, Embrace Progress not Perfection – perhaps the greatest catalyst to embracing change. My suggestion is to keep forward momentum. Keep exploring. Stay open. Be receptive to even what may appear to be an opportunity which is out of your wheel house or may even be an approach with which you disagree. “Lean In” to quote Sheryl Sanberg. Our intuition and inner voice does not lie. Ever. So listen to it. AND remember that nothing is permanent. Change can in fact be an amazingly liberating experience IF we change the frame on how we welcome and grow into the change.

2.  Be direct. Don’t beat around the bush – just call it as it is. Period.  How? Three suggestions:

Communicate – early and often. Be real, authentic, and transparent in what you share, what you ask for, and what you need. And receive others’ openness with grateful, accepting love and appreciation. It is simply not all about you…never has been, never will be.

Transparency and vulnerability in our interactions builds bridges. Dare to be brave and honest in your feelings and dealings.  Hiding behind false bravado is just that – false. Give. Receive. And stand strong in the marathon perspective. As leaders, we must stand tall and confident – as your teams are looking to you for strength and conviction. And if you need inspiration or guidance on how to ‘change the frame’ around vulnerability and embracing change, check out Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, or her simply incredibly salient Ted talk. Both will give you pause.

Assume nothing. My clients know I stand steadfastly by the book The Four Agreements as a salient resource for individual health and team collaboration. They are:Make no assumptions. Be impeccable with your word. Always do your best. Take nothing personally. If each of us could integrate these principles into our work and lives, our collective issues would diminish tenfold. It is VERY tempting and easy to make all kinds of assumptions when change is thrust upon us. Resist this temptation. It will not serve you well or the leadership of your team.

3. Be aware of the naysayers….and yes, they are there even if they are not vocal to you. How many times have we been a part of a team or the leader of a team, where behaviors and attitudes are disruptive to the success of the team? These behaviors can be anything from classic passive aggressive behavior (the infamous water cooler discussions) to constant interruptions and argumentative positions by a certain persons when in meetings. This can derail even the best intentions of a team and/or team leader. What can we do about it?

I have observed one interesting approach, if we are up for the challenge, which helps to change this dynamic. It goes back to the classic Gandhi quotation: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” In other words, we have the opportunity to model the behaviors (and the change) we wish to see – on the leadership team AND within our own teams. First example – let’s say we have an individual on our teams who consistently has a negative perspective on virtually everything. From the weather, to where they are in their lives, to the economic conditions our world is facing, to the change being thrust upon us with the restructuring of HPE. How can we respond to this? We could confront that person with the fact they consistently choose a negative perspective. We could complain to our friends and colleagues about our disgust with this approach. Are these the best approaches? Probably not. Another approach could be to consistently show a positive attitude and ‘change the frame’ with this person when these issues come up.

Second example – let’s say we have a person that is always interrupting, cutting us off mid-sentence. (This is a personal pet peeve of mine.) Instead of confronting him/her with this issue, what if we made a pact with ourselves to not interrupt this person – ever. Despite how frustrating this can become – we just decide to let them ‘run their course.’ Simply don’t engage or give ‘audience’ to their negativity. We continue to show the behavior we wish to see.

4. Remember, again, nothing is permanent.  Many of us may be facing hard, relatively large decisions that have been made with which we may wholeheartedly disagree OR we are, at best, ambiguous about.  Members of your team may be harboring these feelings and opinions; which will hinder your ability to light a fire within your team to embrace the change. Of course, there are no pat answers on how to address these challenges; however, as it pertains to change, I want to offer one simple dose of reality:

D x V x F > R

This is one of the simplest, yet most powerful change models I have ever used. (This is Beckhard’s Change Equation, attributed to change/leadership guru Richard Beckhard). It is simply this -Change will only happen when:

(D) Dissatisfaction with the status quo coupled with our
(V) Vision of what is possible (and this must be more than just the absence of pain in the current situation) coupled with our
(F) First Steps in the direction of that Vision is GREATER THAN our
(R) Resistance to Change, and the inertia to stay where we are.

In other words, when things get bad enough, or are simply not as effective as they could be OR a decision has been made a thrust upon us – then we have to identify the overall direction of where we want to go and take that first step. THEN, we are on your way to change. If any of these components are missing, not clear, or compelling, then we will stay where we are – stuck! So let’s create our new vision, and start moving in that direction.

5. Our ABC’s matter. I was reared with the non-negotiable directive from my parents, that we control no one but ourselves. AND, we only have real control over 3 things: Our Attitudes, Our Behaviors, and Our Choices. We do not control anyone else’s (darn it!); yet, we can adjust OUR ABC’s to embrace what life presents to us. We play the hand we have been dealt – and yes, we can ‘win the game’ with a pair of deuces, if that is all we have. We, individually and collectively, have to make the decision to embrace the change. This may be simply altering the nature of our current situation through attitude, approach, and simply changing the frame of how we view our current role.

Bottom line: embracing change is up to us any way you slice it. 

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