In my consulting work I am often involved in creating organizational change, and then directly confronted by the challenges surfaced as I coach managers and executives through the transition. Over time, I have concluded that there are five key actions people need to consciously perform in order to manage significant change. If followed, these will vastly improve your chances of thriving through even the most difficult change at work:
- Understand – even well-planned communications can leave one confused; don’t assume you truly understand the change you are facing. I suggest you apply Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle and seek to understand first WHY the change is happening, then HOW it will happen and finally WHAT is happening. Go to your boss to build your understanding (or a source of knowledge you are comfortable to approach); ask questions, withhold judgement and do not debate the choices that have been made. Remember to thank your boss for taking the time to answer your questions!
- Clarify Control – I like using Covey’s 3 circles to segment the aspects of what you now understand is changing into those that reside in your Area of Concern, Area of Influence and Area of Control. The rule of thumb: control the controllable before your attempt to influence the influenceable, and castoff your concerns. During change, you may find that you have a limited amount of energy and you do not want to waste it fretting about things you can not affect. Stay focused on what you still need to deliver as your best way to positively stand out during a major change!
- Assess Impact – take a quiet moment and make two lists of perceived impacts from the change you are facing; make a WIIFM List identifying What’s In It For Me, and then make a WAMI List identifying What’s Against My Interests. Assess the relative balance between these two lists, and identify key personal insights. Seek to validate with peers or your boss to ensure you understand the impacts accurately.
- Choose Your Attitude – No matter how little control you may have over what is happening, you always have control over your attitude toward the change and the company. You need to be honest with yourself and ask if there is anything you simply cannot accept; in particular if the change compromises any intrinsic values you hold. Most research indicates that people leave managers not companies; while this may be true, belief in your company’s purpose and practices are a key hook to stay during challenge. There is no compelling reason to stay with a company whose purpose or practices you can not tolerate. Over time that scenario leads to dissatisfaction, bitterness, or worst of all apathy.
- Support – assuming you decide to stay, seek out your boss and ask how you can help them with the change. You have no idea how appreciated this simple act may be. Your boss is likely spending a lot of time in more taxing conversations with people in either resistance or denial, and may be desperate to have someone come forward and say, “I am on board and ready to help!”.
Remember, in the end, our character is not defined by what happens to us, but by how we respond to it. Sorry to sound preachy on this last point, but I am surprised how many good people forget this when challenged by change. If you find this point of view compelling and wish to talk further, you may reach me at Lighthouse NINE Group.
Dave Campanella, CMC
Lighthouse NINE Group
One Eva Road, Suite 209 | Etobicoke, ON M9C 4Z5