The only thing that stays the same in business is change – and with the economy still uncertain, every day presents new challenges and opportunities. How managers adapt to the changing horizon can make the difference between surviving or thriving.
In other words, the tried and true may have worked well up until now, but is it the best way to continue?
Engaging change is now an item on every company's "to do" list, and employers need these changes to work right away. A while ago I penned a column entitled It's time to rethink the way you think," in which I outlined why most change efforts fail.
In that column I cited findings from research psychologist Jeffrey Schwartz and executive coach David Rock, listing three things a company should do to give their change efforts the very best chance of succeeding. Those three things were Focus (on the big picture), Expectation (of an "a-ha" moment of insight), and Attention Density (the amount of attention devoted to a subject over time).
Because the recent events on Wall Street are having an impact on Main Street, the need for Focus, Expectation, and Attention Density are greater than ever. There's no denying that change is on the horizon. But there's even more we can do to help things flow smoothly.
How we engage change personally can make a huge difference – and I'm convinced we can have greater success on a individual level if we follow a few simple practices, such as:
1. Stay Involved: Whether we're a high-profile superstar or an unsung hero, the work we do contributes to a common good. If we back off in the face of change, important connections and communication lines start to fade away. Instead of withdrawing, refocus and think "excellence." In every aspect of your job, ask yourself, "If someone else were looking at my work, would they consider it to be excellent?"
Aside from an internal attitude of staying involved, we can also join a committee or a project team. Our purpose should be to stay plugged into the projects occurring throughout our organization.
2. Keep an Eye on the Big Picture: Since our workplace is more than just our own workstation, we can look at how change is occurring at all levels. Even the picture outside the organization needs to be considered: Baby Boomers are aging, global markets are expanding, technology is improving, budgets are getting tighter, and consumers are better-informed and more involved than ever before.
We must also keep an eye on changes in our individual industries. To could involve staying active in professional associations, reading industry journals, attending conferences, and even surfing the Internet for industry news.
Also, our company's long-term goals (including Vision and Mission statements) should directly influence how we interpret what we see happening around us.
3. Talk and Listen: We will better be able to interpret the events around us if we stay in tune with others about what's going on. This means not only talking with others about what we're seeing, but seeking out and considering their observations, too.
Not only can we can learn from others in our work area, but also from people in other parts of the company—or even from outside the company. Ask people their perspective of how recent changes are affecting their work and how they're dealing with the obstacles.
4 Look for Ways to Be of Value: As I've said many times before, solving problems is part of every job. Therefore, since change always brings new problems, we must resolve to be part of the solution.
Think of it this way: It's one thing to identify a problem, it's something else to solve it.
Most leadership development programs have self-awareness as a foundational starting point. That practice is equally valid in the face of change. Knowing our strengths and weaknesses gives us a better idea of how to adapt as needed.
For example: Conduct a personal SWOT Analysis. Compare your strengths and weaknesses with the opportunities and threats that accompany any change. Then decide how to capitalize on your strengths and what needs to be shored up on your weaknesses to take advantage of opportunities and also minimize any threats.
5. Be Flexible: Look for ways to blend changes into your normal routine. Think in terms of creating new traditions, or new systems.
Naturally, we need to maintain efficiency and effectiveness, but flexibility allows us to roll with the changes instead of slam up against them. We can be flexible in our attitude and our responsibilities. One person I know put it like this: "Be keen on finding efficient ways for adapting to new realities."
6 Learn From Your Network: Since our network of contacts are probably facing similar changes, they serve as a sounding board as well as a safety net. Former classmates, former co-workers, people you know who have "been there" are all people from whom we can learn. I like the Benjamin Franklin quote, "If we don't hang together, we're going to hang separately."
From a purely pragmatic standpoint, we should gather details about change so we can determine how it affects us.
Bottom line: How we approach change affects its impact on us. We can work to accommodate it, or we might get flattened as it rolls over us. As always, what we do is a choice.