Change is here…and more is coming. There is a new normal on the horizon; things will never go back to the exact same way they were before the COVID-19 pandemic. While several immediate changes have been forced upon us, the future changes are still being developed. Are you ready to lead the new? Or will you be trying to regain what has been lost to the past?
“The secret to change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but building on the new”. Socrates
Types of Change
There are two types of change taking place right now. The first is the unexpected change brought on by unforeseen circumstances, the other is planned change that you know is coming and have time to prepare for. Both types of change provide an opportunity for personal growth. Change is a natural part of life. It can’t be avoided, so learning how to embrace it makes the change process more palatable, and for some, enjoyable.
Unexpected change can be challenging and frightening. It rips us from our comfort zone in a dramatic fashion and pushes us into new situations. Without a plan in place, we can feel like lab rats as we experiment with various approaches until we can settle into a new way of doing things. If you don’t have a curious and adventurous spirit, this experimental learning phase can be a tough period. However, if you have an open and creative mind, the possibilities and opportunities are endless.
Planned change is something that you know about in advance. This provides a chance to gather resources and training for a smooth implementation. But just because something is planned, doesn’t mean it will be easy to manage. As the world starts to reopen, adjustments will have to be made. Now is your chance to figure out what the best approach for you and your team will be. You have the ability to make decisions about what will change, how it will change, and when the changes will take place. Remember to keep steps simple and focus on the most important aspects first.
Fear of Change
Most of us fear change. Those of us that are risk-takers are usually in the minority. Understanding what scares us about change is important if you want to be able to navigate through it yourself and lead others through it.
The biggest fear factor in change is about control. We don’t like to feel that we don’t have control over a situation, and more importantly over the outcome. The potential embarrassment or hit to our ego if we fail is a huge hurdle for us to overcome. For many people, the emotions around fear of failure are stronger than the desire to succeed. We are so afraid to fail, that we don’t want to even try. The negative mindset around the consequences of failure tend to overwhelm the positive mindset around the benefits of succeeding. Crazy right?
We humans are complex, prideful beings and we are our biggest roadblock. Understanding what is preventing us from being able to embrace change is essential. Then you can break down the big changes into smaller steps. Smaller steps feel less risky and have smaller consequences. Build on these small changes until you reach the larger change you have planned. Uncertainly and doubt are normal – acknowledge them, discuss them, and identify how to deal with them throughout the change process.
“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” John F. Kennedy
Planned Change Game Plan
We all have a great opportunity to plan out a new path for how business will operate in the future. In many ways, we are being given a clean slate. The hypothetical question of “If you were to start the business over today, what would you do differently?” has come to life. Instead of simply thinking about how to keep things as similar to the past as possible, why not think about your ideal vision and how to bring that forward? Here are three steps to help you in that journey.
Step 1: Clarify What it is You Want
Be specific about the changes you want to enact. You need to know exactly what the change looks like and be able to clearly articulate that vision to others. You must be able to tell a compelling story that provides an image everyone can understand and visualize for themselves.
Step 2: Account for Potential Obstacles
People, policies, and resources are the most common places you will encounter potential obstacles. Think through all the possible challenges you might find and figure out various ways to address each of those challenges.
Step 3: Develop a Plan of Action
Planned change needs a plan. Take the time to list out all the steps that will get you to your vision. Figure out what needs to be done, in what order, who it involves, what resources are needed, and the target competition date. This will help everyone track progress and see how each step contributes to the larger picture.
“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change” Albert Einstein
As you work through these three steps, keep the following strategies in mind.
- Take small action steps. Keep each step simple and achievable. Set yourself up for success.
- Move in all directions. Change is like a chess game, sometimes you must move backwards or sideways before you can move forward.
- Success is not about you alone. Keep your ego in check and focus on the big picture.
- Keep failure positive. We always think failing is bad; it’s only bad if we don’t learn from it. Focus on the lessons learned and use that to propel you to try again.
As a leader, you not only have to set the stage for change, you need to help your employees through the process as well. Aside from developing the grand plan for change, you must remember that change is implemented by and effects people. You must have the employees trust if you are going to be successful. That means you also need a personal plan for how you are going to support your employees as they go on this journey of change with you. Here are three critical tips for leading people through change.
Communication. People fear the unknown. The more you can keep everyone informed of what is happening, when, and why, the more you can ease this fear.
Engagement. Find ways to involve your employees in the decisions and the implementation. The more you can create a sense of ownership to the change, the more receptive they will be.
Listening. Change can cause anxiety for some. Allow employees to come to you with their concerns. Listen. Find out what is holding them back and strategize how to address those issues.
Putting It All Together
Change is all around us. Whether we think it is good or bad is generally a reaction to how much of it we can control. Leaders react with a sense of adventure; they seize on the opportunity. Even unexpected changes that are put upon us are a chance to grow, improve and innovate. Planned changes allow us to step up and take control and demonstrate our ability create a new and better environment. Leaders know how to do this and bring everyone else along with a positive outlook.
Change is not easy. It takes hard work, creativity, and persistence. You must manage both the change and those that are risk averse. But taking on these challenges can produce huge returns. It all starts with you and your intention. Are you ready to embrace and lead the coming changes?