When I was 15, getting my driver’s license and being able to drive on my own felt like the most important thing in life. My desire for change in this case was obvious. Being given access to something you have been barred from doing, like getting into an R rated movie, dating, driving, buying alcohol, or the myriad of barriers we all face in our daily lives is always wonderful.
One of my greatest joys comes from the need for new learning created by change. To learn is to acquire new knowledge or skill, which can also be described as removing barriers. Acquisition of new knowledge and skill leads to new understandings, perspectives, and capabilities. Each of these cause change, whether we know it and like it or not.
So, where’s this broader desire for change? How do we turn the changes we also face throughout life that take away rather than give?
Learning that the tooth fairy, Santa Clause, and the Easter Bunny weren’t real wasn’t enjoyable. Rather than looking at those new understandings with sadness or loss, think about the joy they brought when you were first introduced to them and how they stimulated your imagination.
And therein, I believe, is the magic of change. It’s not about the loss of something familiar or good, it’s about gaining something new and exciting.
Two things happen with every change. The individual impacted by change loses something they have and want, and gains something of value they don’t have. That doesn’t make change easier or the benefits more obvious. It does make every change tolerable by giving whenever it takes.
In an ever-changing world, avoiding change is akin to leaving the human race. There are a lot of unhappy people who always seem to want to fight change, and they’re miserable. Nothing can stop change, least of all a single individual.
When you make time to objectively evaluate the pros and cons of every change, you can always make a case for new opportunity accompanying change. This often outweighs the loss of something comfortable and familiar.
When you can embrace the opportunities change enables and see their value as being greater than the value of what you’re losing, change becomes a welcome ally.
Leaning on some of the best change management practices I know, start with awareness. Don’t make assumptions. Understand why change is happening and recognize its inevitability.
Then look for aspects within every change that brings new opportunity and embrace them. Prepare yourself in two ways: Learn as much as you can and look for new skills to practice and develop. Then help squeeze as much benefit as you can from it.
For the leaders out there, I strongly advise you to make time to think about the future and scan for coming changes. (See the Arc of Success in Businesses Don’t Fail, They Commit Suicide, chapter 3: The Problems with Success.) The sooner you can see changes coming, the more time you have to find hidden benefits and prepare your team. When they embrace change and avoid dwelling on whatever is being lost, you’ve won the battle and are well-on your way to winning the war.
To help drive this point, I remind you that during an NCR sales meeting in 1911, Thomas Watson, founder of IBM told his staff “The trouble with every one of us is that we don’t think enough. We don’t get paid for working with our feet — we get paid for working with our heads.”
The opportunities to be part of my clients’ journeys are how we grow and learn. As far as what the future holds, it should be clear at this point that nobody knows. Of all the things we could do to survive, I can’t tell you what’s right. I can tell you what works and get you pointed in the right direction.
Do you want the successful organization you’ve built to survive? If so, you must find ways to help your staff embrace change.
If you want to talk about how to make change a welcome guest in your organization, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 916-798-0600.
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