“You can judge your age by the amount of pain you feel when you come in contact with a new idea.”
John Nuveen, Jr., business leader
It doesn’t matter if you like change or hate change. Change is here to stay … as ironic as that sounds. And you’ve only got two choices: You can muddle your way through it or you can manage your way through it.
The truth is … some things should change … such as the way airlines operate. And they did, thank goodness. Back in the 1930’s, the following instructions were given to the flight attendants: 1) Keep the clock and altimeter wound up. 2) Carry a railroad timetable in case the plane is grounded. 3) Warn passengers against throwing their cigars and cigarettes out the windows. 4) Keep an eye on passengers when they go to the lavatory to be sure they don’t mistakenly go out the emergency exit.
Other things shouldn’t change, like certain principles, values, morals, and ethics. President Thomas Jefferson spoke about that when he said, “In matters of style, swim with the current. In matters of principle, stand like a rock.”
Whether certain things should or should not change is open to debate. The fact still remains that YOU must learn to manage your way through it. That’s what Lori Reeser, a Business Analyst from a major insurance company, said after attending my “Journey to the Extraordinary” program. She wrote, “I wish someone had given me these tools 20 years ago! I’ve had my share of successes but can only imagine how much higher I could have gone with the information I learned at the two-day Journey program. Now I’m in the exciting process of applying these techniques and looking forward to the best 20 years of my life.”
To manage your way through change … any change … personal, professional, or organizational … there are many things you can and should do. A few of them include:
1. Claim your power.
Don’t get sucked into whining, saying such things as: “These changes weren’t my idea. So don’t expect me to make them work … or … There’s nothing I can do … and … All these changes in the company are doing nothing more than causing chaos and confusion. Why can’t they get their act together?”
When you talk and think like that, you turn yourself into a helpless victim. As businessman Robert Half said, “The search for someone to blame is always successful.” So don’t waste your time with your own victimization. After all, in most cases, the changes are going to go forward no matter what.
So reclaim your power. You are not helpless. Take a moment to recognize that you’re either a part of the solution or a part of the problem. And you WILL make a difference one way or another.
You and everybody else are in a position to have a positive impact. Indeed, you may surprise yourself with how much you can accomplish and the contribution you can make toward helping the organization through the changes.
2. Don’t get too used to your comfort zone.
In fact, those who live most of their lives in the comfort zone may find it to be a danger zone. My research even shows a strong connection between playing it too safe … in not changing often enough … and dying earlier.
Excitement, discovery, progress, innovation, improvement, vitality, zest, and a host of other great qualities are found outside your comfort zone, not inside. Oh sure, you’ll make some mistakes, but so what!
As actor and director Woody Allen noted, “If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you are playing it safe.” And that’s dangerous. That’s why consultant Judith E. Glaser says, “People who don’t make mistakes aren’t trying hard enough to advance themselves or the organization.” In other words, “no pain, no gain. It’s simply the way life works.
So what should you do to get better at managing change? Get some practice. Take more risks. Get outside your comfort zone more often. As author Gerald Lescarbeault writes, “It’s better to plunge into the unknown than to try to make sure of everything.” Then when change inevitably comes, you will have the skills you need to get through it much more effectively.
It was that kind of risk taking that got Dr. Kevin Rieck, a surgeon from the world’s most prominent hospital, to attend the “Journey to the Extraordinary” program. He told me, “After considering this course for a few years, I finally took the time to attend. The information presented captured my attention and has proven to be useful and practical for a lifetime. I truly see very little, if anything, to improve upon in this incredible program.”
3. Find some humor in the change.
Change is tough enough without getting into a pity party over it. Find something to laugh about.
I had to do that when I was speaking to Ameriprise Financial. It was a new client at a high level in the organization. So of course I wanted to do my best and look my best. As luck would have it, all of my luggage arrived with my fancy suit and various products, except I forgot to pack any dress shoes. With no time to shop, I had to get on stage and talk to executives about change while I wore a suit with sneakers. Even though I was embarrassed, the head of the meeting, the Vice President, was so impressed with my presentation and “outfit” that he suggested I always dress like that when speaking on change. Whew!
On a similar note, a school district in California was having huge difficulties with students and parents not taking responsibility for excessive absences and missing homework. So the school tried to implement much stricter policies. Of course, some of the parents went berserk and threatened the school and teachers with lawsuits if they didn’t change their children’s grades … even though their children were absent 15 to 30 times during the semester and did not complete enough schoolwork to pass their classes.
There wasn’t much humor in that change, you say. But I like the way some teachers said they would have liked to respond. They didn’t actually do it, but they wanted the school’s outgoing answering machine to say the following:
“Hello. You have reached the automated answering service of your school. In order to assist you in connecting to the right staff member, please listen to all the options before making a selection.
- To lie about why your child is absent, press 1.
- To make excuses for why your child did not do his homework, press 2.
- To complain about what we do, press 3.
- To swear at staff members, press 4.
- To ask why you didn’t get information that was already enclosed in your newsletter and several flyers mailed to you, press 5.
- If you want us to raise your child, press 6.
- If you want to reach out and touch, slap, or hit someone, press 7.
- To request another teacher, for the third time this year, press 8.
- To complain about bus transportation, press 9.
- To complain about school lunches, press 0.
- If you realize this is the real world and your child must be accountable and responsible for his/her own behavior, class work, homework and that it’s not the teacher’s fault for your child’s lack of effort, hang up and have a nice day!
There’s a lot of wisdom in what those teachers and that school district wanted to say because they found the humor in a very difficult and changing situation. I suggest you do the same thing. When it would be easy to gripe, groan, and complain about a change, find some humor in it. After all, as the host of the radio call-in show “What’s Your Problem?” Bernard Meltzer so wisely observed, “In about 20 years, today’s trying times will have become ‘the good old days.'”
Action: Decide on two risks you’ll take this week … and do them!