One of the chief reasons that so many people are uncomfortable with change is because it happens to them not for them. This point was made to me in an interview with personal branding expert, William Arruda. It was in reference to a company that had relocated its offices from one city to another. Many employees were quite discomfited by the move.
Employees of course have two choices when faced with significant changes — a move, a reorganization, or even a denial of promotion. They can leave and find work elsewhere, or they can remain and seek to make the best of it. Simple choice yes but unless employees take ownership of their decision they will easily revert to victimhood.
Taking ownership shifts the onus from something being done to you to something over which you have control. Asserting control over one’s destiny is critical if ownership is to survive. Such advice is particularly important during times of personal disruption. How you assert yourself is critical to your ability to survive but also thrive. So here are three questions to ask yourself when faced with disruptive change.
What do I do now? Understand you have a choice. You can opt out and not accept the change. Of course we may feel for financial reasons (or to maintain health benefits) we cannot do so, but do understand that, unless you have been sentenced to jail, you can decide what to do. Making the decision to stay for whatever reason means that you have made a decision. Likewise if you decide to leave, that is a decision.
What do I do next? Make your boss aware of what you have decided to do. If you are staying in, you want to make certain your boss knows that you are still part of the team. If your disappointment is evident, as it might be with a loss of a promotion, acknowledge it but do not dwell on the negativity. Reassure the boss that you are still in the game and want to be considered as a contributor. Such behavior will mark you as one who has a strong sense of self and can deal with disappointment.
How can I make this work for me? Look for ways to turn the “sow’s ear into a silk purse.” Avoid the “coulda, woulda, shoulda” self-talk; that’s self-defeating. Look for ways to turn the change into new opportunities. For example, a corporate reorganization may have put a rival into another spot. Now is your opportunity to show what you can do. Find ways to assert your can-do spirit. Be proactive. Look for ways to make a positive difference.
These questions are very simple to articulate and but the answers they provoke are not necessarily easy to execute. As Harvard professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter has taught us: we only change when it hurts too much not to change. A corporate reorganization, a transfer, or failure to win promotion are changes that may be perceived as a loss of something: position, location or opportunity. None of us is comfortable losing anything, particularly our pride. So it’s okay to feel down or sorry for yourself for a day or so. But then you must come to terms with the change. You need to make a decision about what you will do.
Change is part of the human condition; it is an organic process. And within an organization of human beings it is a dynamic that alters the status quo. How you deal with the change says much about your ability to cope as well as your ability to navigate circumstances that may not be the most favorable to you. Owning the change, and making it work for you, is critical to your ability to demonstrate resilience as well as an ability to move forward. It is very definitely a mark of leadership.
John Baldoni is an internationally recognized leadership development consultant, executive coach, author, and speaker. In 2010 Top Leadership Gurus named John one of the world’s top 25 leadership experts. John’s newest book is Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up (Amacom 2009). Readers are welcome to visit John’s website, www.johnbaldoni.com