Change, and our response to it, comes in many forms – predicted, unanticipated, gradual, immediate, delayed, incremental, massive, desired, ambivalent, resistant, and celebrated are a few ways we experience change. Some change is sought out; some feels like it is thrust upon us. One thing is for certain: Change is inevitable. How can we more proactively and fluidly navigate change in our lives?
Put yourself in the driver’s seat. Many of us can confess to being “control enthusiasts.” Take advantage of that by putting yourself in a position of empowerment. When you do, you begin to put your energies into what you can control, so that your life is generally going in the direction of your self-generated waypoints. Your objective might be a career trajectory, a work initiative or a lifestyle shift – regardless of the chosen path, taking ownership fosters heightened commitment and follow-through.
Decide what you want to change. If we are vague about what we want, we will likely get incomplete or off-the-mark results. When we gain clarity, it becomes easier to take tangible steps to make it happen. If, for example, you state only that you “want less stress,” it is highly unlikely you will magically achieve a state of equanimity. If, however, you identify the source of the frustration, you might be able to define a change that would alter your stress level.
Mitigate a stressor. In leadership coaching sessions I often hear what is causing my clients to be frustrated, annoyed and/or disappointed. The sources of your grief are the seeds of defining the change you want. Common ailments include: communication breakdowns, lack of transparency in the status of company initiatives, slow decision-making, and unclear roles and accountabilities. If you do not like how things are working, name how you would prefer them to be.
Achieve an aspiration. Maybe you see an opportunity for your organization to grow in a new market, attain operational efficiencies with better systems, improve a service, etc. Aspirations for your organization are great sources for defining necessary changes. It allows you to step away from the fray and into possibilities.
The point is to crystallize what you want. You might conduct a simple gap analysis, comparing the current state to the desired future state. What will be different? How will you know if you have been successful in integrating this change? How will it feel?
Determine why you want the change. By understanding the underlining reason for the desired change, you can stay connected to your motivators. Discipline wanes, and when it does, revisiting why this change is important to you or your organization can make the difference between a broken agreement and an established, productive habit.
Ask yourself when and how you see this change manifesting. Manage the change you want as if it were a project for a client. Clearly identify the outcomes, schedule, milestones, resources, and roles and responsibilities. Build in support. Enlist a team that shares your commitment, or at the very least is committed to serving as your active accountability partner. The more we speak to others about the change we are committed to creating, the more likely we are to make the change a reality.
Identify obstacles. The path you seek may be littered with barriers, difficulties and uncertainties. These obstacles can sabotage our chances for success if we do not identify and plan for them. It is too easy to allow obstacles to derail progress, and sometimes even thwart the attempt entirely. By identifying and removing or mitigating an obstacle, you deepen your capacity (and your team’s) to integrate the change.
One common but sometimes discreet and overlooked obstacle is what I call being “wedded to being right.” We routinely accept information that confirms what we already believe, and reject that which challenges the status quo, especially if we have invested our identity into being right about something. Our egos can prevent us from stepping outside of our comfort zones. If left unchecked, being wedded to being right can translate to stubbornness, righteousness, arrogance, false confidence and stunted growth. If we stay stuck seeing and doing things as we always have, we limit our own self-improvement and career satisfaction, as well as our organization’s capacity to innovate.
We have all heard and repeated the adage that “change is hard.” The essence for that sentiment is that change often requires a different way of thinking, behaving or even believing. Resistance to change is resistance to evolve.
Take the K Challenge:
Embrace change. Drive the adventure.
- Name the change and create a game plan.
- Take ownership – put yourself in the driver’s seat.
- Identify the one habit that, if you put into practice, would greatly support the change you want to generate?
- Let go of the ego. Care more about generating positive change than about being right.
- Expand your influences. New ideas often come from fresh perspectives. Seek new ways of looking at things.
- View change as an exploration. Bring a sense of adventure, curiosity and enthusiasm to the experience. This shift can be the difference from resistance to empowerment.
- Embrace your mistakes. Live and learn. As you lean into that discomfort, your comfort zone expands.
- Build in support and accountability. Very little is accomplished in this world without it. Besides, when you are ready to celebrate your wins, it is so much more rewarding to do so with those who have shared the journey.
Karen Natzel is a business therapist who helps leaders create healthy, vibrant and high-performing organizations. Contact her at 503-806-4361 or email@example.com.