Monday 16 July 2018

Take the plunge: change is to be embraced, not feared

Gina London
Gina London

Gina London

I woke up for the last time in my bed in Cork with a slight sense of panic, "What am I doing? What if this doesn't work out?" I was thinking of my impending move. A new home in a new city. The thoughts filled me with a sense of dread and fear. I have thoroughly enjoyed our home and our neighbours and friends in Cork city. Likewise, my young daughter Lulu has thoroughly enjoyed her school and her own little friends.

This is where we first landed in Ireland.

I learned to drive on the left side along Cork's narrow streets, like Lovers' Walk in Montenotte. I learned the names of shopkeepers and cafe proprietors. I knew the route to Lulu's school by heart. We had settled into our routines and it was comfortable.

Now we were leaving all that. What would the future bring? Would it be worth uprooting ourselves? I shook off those early morning feelings of apprehension and rose to meet the movers. A few hours later, our boxes arrived on the doorstep of our new home. In Dublin. Over the past year, I made so many overnight trips away from my daughter to go to work with clients in Dublin, that moving here permanently made sense logically, if not fully emotionally.

This past Monday then, I was in an elevator at the INM's offices chatting with Louise Kelly. The digital and technology business editor for Independent.ie had also moved over the weekend. Louise agreed it had been stressful.

Change isn't easy. For any of us.

The American adventure writer, Edgar Rice Burroughs, who brought us the classic Tarzan series of books, once notably declared: "We are, all of us, creatures of habit, and when the seeming necessity for schooling ourselves in new ways ceases to exist, we fall naturally and easily into the manner and customs which long usage has implanted ineradicably within us." I agree whole-heartedly with most of that sentiment.

But I wonder about the premise of "when" the necessity for schooling ceases to exist. Does it ever? Burroughs places the word "seeming" in front of "necessity", so I think not. Shouldn't we always be on a quest for additional schooling or opportunities to learn and grow? And if so, doesn't that always involve change of some kind, whether mental if not physical?

So let's examine how to better embrace change at work.

 

1 Understand the need

"Change is good". How many times have you heard that? We might appreciate the expression in general terms, but when a specific change actually looms before us, we baulk. As with my familiarity with Cork, we're accustomed to our work patterns and behaviours. Most of us do not smile and clap our hands at the thought of change.

But if we don't push ourselves to try a new task or tackle a new project or apply for a new role, we will not develop. Organisations that haven't changed or adapted are regularly gobbled up by disruptors. From middle manager to chief executive to board chair, the same can happen to you.

Similarly, if you are leading a company which is about to undertake change, make sure all your employees fully understand why the change is required.

Don't presume they all have the same level of interest in how competitive pricing works, or how the global marketplace for your service or produce may have shifted or whatever is the cause for the change. Spell it out for them.

Understanding what is needed is the first step toward making it happen. You will need buy-in from yourself and your team when maintaining the status quo just isn't an option.

 

2 Take the plunge

Okay, you know you need to do something differently, so now go do it. There are times when a lot of planning is required beforehand. But, more often than not, I recommend once you understand the need for change, jump. Craft your net on the way down.

 

3 Focus on a positive outcome

Concentrate for a few minutes on what your life and career or your organisation will look like, or how it will operate more effectively, after the change.

Write down a few things you envisioned. If you are changing as an individual, post them somewhere where you will see them regularly. If you are working to change an entire organisation or department, I recommend you conduct targeted listening sessions so employees can collaborate on what the changed processes will mean.

These collective outcomes should be shared company-wide to bolster morale and keep the team motivated. Don't review negative possibilities. Stay focused on the positive expectations.

 

4 Stay vigilant

Understanding and embracing change requires communication, communication, and more communication. To both yourself if it's just for you - or to your team. Don't let up on this. Not communicating does not create a vacuum. Believe me, something - probably self-doubt or company gossip - will fill that void.

 

So, as soon as I hear the voice in my head start to wonder whether it was the right time to move to Dublin, I counter with an emphatic, "Yes, it was. Change is good."

Sunday Indo Business

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