If there’s one word that captures the essence of business today, it’s change. Like it or not, this is the age of the changing organization. Mergers, acquisitions, consolidation, downsizing, reorganization and measures to cut costs are the norm. No industry is exempt. There are no sacred cows any more. Even the most venerable, conservative institutions are undergoing change. It is everywhere and it is likely to continue well into the foreseeable future.
A Battle for Survival
With a fluctuating economy and increasingly fierce competition, all organizations are in a battle to maintain market share and grow their business. New competitors are emerging—many from non-traditional sources boasting new business models and creative strategies that challenge the status quo. Needless to say, in this environment, companies are recognizing that what worked in the past will no longer work today. They are seeking smarter strategies, and asking their people to work harder than ever to help them remain competitive.
Under these conditions, it should not be surprising that many people feel alienated, stressed or estranged by managerial calls to embrace or even initiate change processes. It makes them feel uncomfortable, challenges the way they view themselves, disrupts their productivity and forces them to deal with a great deal of pressure and uncertainty. Some resist, or passively “go through the motions” of doing their job, hoping things will go back to the way they used to be. They won’t. They never will.
There is an alternative—people can choose to move forward through change, learn from it and become like the chameleon—adaptable.
Sometimes mergers, changing business policies, procedures or new initiatives come through your company, and it feels like a breeze. Other times, like a strong wind. But more often than not, it feels more like a hurricane—wrecking havoc in your business routine.
During these times, it makes all but the most proficient individuals want to take cover and hope for it to just blow over. One thing is a given—change won’t go away. The increased speed of doing business and making tough decisions is here to stay. If anyone in a professional capacity refuses to recognize and accept this state of affairs, he or she will simply not be able to keep up.
The Challenge of Having to Change
You must be able to adapt to a new way of doing and viewing things. This is not an easy task. Dealing with change is probably the most uncomfortable position anyone can find themselves in. It makes you challenge the way you view yourself; it disrupts your life; it forces you to deal with the unknown. You may feel alienated and, most definitely, you will feel stressed.
Sometimes a management decision to change is not always for the better. It all depends on where you are sitting when change occurs. Good or bad, change always brings with it uncertainty and insecurity. If it is perceived to be bad, our survival instincts kick in. We do what comes naturally; we dig in our heels and fight.
Adapting to Change
To cope with change, we should take some lessons from the natural world. Look around and you’ll see the various mechanisms that nature employs to adapt to change. A perfect example is the chameleon. It is a marvelous creature that can rapidly adapt to its environment by fluidly matching its pigmentation to its surroundings. Put it on a rock, it turns grayish-brown. Put it on a leaf, it turns green.
By changing and adapting, the chameleon protects itself from predators. Perhaps, being human, we may not have it as easy when adapting to change. However, by playing the role of a chameleon, the world of change may become simpler and less stressful.
Practice chameleon-like adaptive behavior to help you through any transition process:
- Accept Change. Don’t fight it. Change will occur whether you want it or not. In fact, the less you resist it, the easier the transition will be. Just remember, when it comes to change, it’s your choice whether you accept or reject it. Unfortunately, you can never control it, and it’s not wise to worry about what you can’t control. Dig in your heels and that position of resistance will work against you in the long run. It will hold you and your company back. Keep in mind, that no matter how much you may resent certain changes, any executive or manager is expected to make the kind of decisions that will keep the company profitable. Change is inherent in those decisions. As you inevitably approach change, make a concentrated effort to keep a positive attitude, while focusing on putting your best foot forward each day.
- See the Challenge. View new technology, systems, business practices, skills, a merger or consolidation as challenges you are ready and able to face head on. With a positive attitude, you will be more assured of being successful. Instead of worrying about the negative consequences of change, adopt a positive attitude. Tell yourself that this just may turn out to be very good in the long run. Say to yourself, “I’m not sure what’s going to happen, but I’m going to deliver my best performance and do all I can to make it work. It won’t be easy, but in some ways, it may be very exciting. I have weathered many changes; I can do this, too.”
- Learn to Love to Learn. When you learn new skills and new ways of doing things, you change. Sometimes you change in small ways; sometimes you change in such a significant way that your whole life is different. Alan Toffler, the famous futurist said, “The illiterate of the future will not be those who cannot read and write, but will be those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”
How many of you have mastered one type of technology only to have to learn another? Or become accustomed to one procedure and then suddenly have to adapt to a new one? If you’re in sales, you’ve experienced continually learning and relearning about new products to be able to convince customers to buy from you and your company. Achievement-oriented people know that success requires continuous learning. It must be a lifelong process, no matter how much experience they have presently or how old they are. Make a decision to be a high achiever.
- Be Flexible. Be able to work well either independently, as a team or under direct supervision in a changing environment. Be understanding of the pressures on people in different positions. If you are in a management position, encourage your staff to come forward to share ideas on how to implement change smoothly. Form problem-solving teams with people from varied positions to help identify problems and come up with creative solutions that will help you to increase productivity, profitability and maintain morale.
- Be Patient. Take it easy on yourself and others. Adapting to change doesn’t occur overnight. Remember that change has a different impact on each and every individual. Some are more adaptable than others. You need to be sensitive to the needs of others so you can help them meet the challenge of change.
- Be Understanding. Keep in mind, executives and managers must make some tough—real tough—decisions. Often these decisions are hard to take, and require much more from you. Do your best to be understanding, flexible and deliver your best performance each day.
- Be a Leader. Encourage other members of the organization to pull together for a positive result. In doing so, you will feel more in control as the many changes occur. Ask others to be accountable to each other, not only for their performance but also for being supportive of each other. Remember, it’s not all up to you. The job of implementing change is the responsibility of everyone throughout the organization.
- Take Time to Breathe. Take it one day at a time. Why? Because that’s how change really occurs—only one day at a time. That’s the good news, so take a deep breath and relax. All you have to do is just what needs to be accomplished today. Let it unfold one day at a time. Focus on each day, not on the entire long-term change process. Keep your life in balance, and take mental breaks throughout the day—even if they are just for five minutes.
- Be Realistic. Be realistic and know more change will come. Be sure to expect a few bumps in the road along the way. Think of your past accomplishments and it will make you more confident for the future.
- Learn To Love What You Do. If you love your job, you are fortunate. But not everyone has a job they love. If, however, you can learn to love your job through all the uncertainty, instability and pressure, and focus on the positive, that’s when you’ll be more creative, more productive and simply make things better for everyone around you.
- Learn to Laugh. Take stock of what you are worried about. In the scheme of things, your professional career is one part of your life. Manage the pressure in your job. Lighten up! Business is serious, but it doesn’t have to make you solemn. Laugh a little. Every time you laugh, you’ll get a surge of positive energy throughout your body. Encourage others to do the same. Put everything into proper perspective and you’ll be a lot more content in the long run.
- Decide Your Fate. Now for the final issue: Will you choose to be like the chameleon, which can quickly adapt to its present environment with a simple set of built-in techniques? Or, will you choose to follow in the path of the once powerful Tyrannosaurus Rex that became extinct because it could not respond to it changing environment? Putting it this way, the answer seems easy. No one wants to be extinct. Unfortunately, we sometimes (even unknowingly) put up our own roadblocks to success. We resist, complain and refuse to take on the challenge. We simply won’t change. The sad news is that the environment will change whether we go along or not. We can choose to get on board or get left behind. Can you rise to the challenge of change? I, for one, am enjoying the journey.
To read more of Christine’s motivational writing, visit www.christinespeaks.com. tpw