Change is inevitable…it’s going to happen whether you are ready or not, prepared or not, happy or not.
As you move from one year to the next, it seems as if you blinked and another year has passed. Without change, what will your conversation be next year at this time? Every time something changes, you have the opportunity to grow and learn not only about “things” but also about yourself.
As leaders, change will be in front of us every day…ok sometimes hourly. Your job is to look at the situation and decide how change will either be a positive or a negative…even though, we tend to go towards the negative. Personally, I had an AHA moment that I hadn’t thought about it in quite a while because, it caused me to change the way I thought about things and stop being so stuck in my ways, which made me slightly uncomfortable and taught me a few good lessons. You see, it didn’t have to be my way or the highway, but it did have to be up to my standards, and I wasn’t quite sure that was happening.
I oversaw a training project where we would be facilitating a 6-8-hour training in 16 cities in 17 days. I am exhausted thinking about it, but we were 4 teams of 4 going out and getting it done. On one particular day, one of the trainers from our team was sick and we needed to pull in a trainer from another team who had the day open. We could have done without the extra person, but we knew that each audience deserved the best we could give and we thought having 4 people rotating throughout those hours would be the way to go.
The day started out fine and then it was time for the “new” person on the team to do his part. We all knew exactly how the part should be done and what information should be given out and what the results should look like. As the person in charge, I was ready for anything…except when… what we knew should take place didn’t. The trainer got up there and didn’t do anything we expected. I was taking so many notes about what he should have done and why and I was not happy at all. He had 2 ½ hours to get that piece of this very dry but very important information out. I had written so many pages of what he forgot and what he missed and what he changed and what he didn’t do that I wasn’t listening to what he did do. At one point I was beyond beyond and I compared the training to a wedding. Once it starts you have no control of what didn’t go as planned so sit back and watch the show.
And that’s what I did. I couldn’t embarrass him and jump up on stage and take over and I couldn’t ask him questions to get him back on MY track. So I listened. When he was done, I realized that he did a great job. While he didn’t use the stories we were accustomed to, he used his own and he tied pieces together and he was funny and engaging and yes, not only did the attendees learn, but so did I and the rest of the team. If only I had embraced change right off the bat, my level of anxiety would have been at an all-time low instead of ready to burst. The truth is that embracing change in work and life is essential to growing as an individual and as a leader and being a better person than who you were yesterday…but it isn’t easy. And with my blog “Change Is Inevitable, Growth Is Optional” you would think I would know that…but it isn’t easy. Why is it so difficult? It might be because we don’t like the lack of control or the uncertainty of outcomes not being what we thought, or bruised egos, embarrassment or failing. People also seem to hate losing more than they love winning. But, if you don’t learn to embrace change and if you don’t move forward, you will be left behind, and that seems even worse and, definitely harder.
So let’s get comfortable being uncomfortable and figuring out a way to embrace change instead of ignoring it.
1. Take small action steps. When you get your mind wrapped around the concept of embracing change, the first thing to do to make it less painful is to just take small steps forward. So, find one small thing that you can do at a time, then do it and then, do another. In my example, I might have had a conversation with the new trainer and listened to how he did his training before I pre-judged him after 1 sentence.
2. Start with an end goal, work backward and break your goal into small action steps until you can get to the very first one in the path. This is usually something that you can control or do yourself. Once you accomplish that milestone, then you can tackle another. You must be willing to go back in order to move forward. You need that momentum to go forward. It reminds me of slowing down to speed up. I thought that maybe I should have taken a step or two backwards to allow something new and potentially even better to happen. Again, listening and not feeling like I had lost control.
3. Check your ego. Typically, the biggest roadblock to change is you. Often, there’s little downside other than facing your own bruised ego when you evaluate change. Clearly my ego was having a temper tantrum and I wasn’t ready to hear that someone else might have a better solution or simply a different one.
4. Fail correctly. For some reason, most of us were never taught to fail. This is unfortunate because failure, when done properly, is a good thing. It’s required for taking on risk. That is, if you do it the right way. The right way to fail means doing it quickly, inexpensively and never the same way twice. Many times the culture or environment that you are in won’t allow failure and many times, failure is not an option for yourself. Embracing change is really not about failing. It’s about learning and growing and distributing responsibilities so that you share what you know and are able to rise to the next level.
Think about it this way. Time never stands still in real life. It’s not like the movies where characters can freeze-frame and the writer takes the viewer on some unrelated story. In real life, change happens constantly. You can fight it or welcome it. It’s your choice. Change will occur regardless. So the question remains, why not embrace change? If change is going to happen anyway, fighting it won’t do any good. It’s better to figure out an approach to deal with change that will work for you.
Change forces us to be flexible. You must bend and shift to meet new circumstances. It’s your time to decide how to move forward and meet those new situations head on. You will become stronger and that just might include asking for help, a strength you didn’t even realize you had.
Through it all opportunities will appear. They may not be what you had hoped for, or they may be things you had never considered. Be open and remain curious about what opportunities changes will bring.
Change is inevitable…growth is optional.