There are many cliché’s about change, “a change is as good as a rest” or “the only constant is change.” Change is an everyday part of our lives and people have different levels of comfort with it. So whether you are a seeker of change or have it thrust upon you, having a few strategies up your sleeve to deal with it can make it a much smoother experience.
Humans are excellent at recognising patterns and adapting to them; think of your walk from the bus stop to home or that drive to work in the morning – how much do you have to think about it? For most of us it’s an automatic process that requires little active thought. This ability does come with a downside. Breaking those patterns can be painful once they are ingrained and as someone who has been through considerable change recently, I have found out exactly how challenging this can be.
Never one to do things by half, I decided to move into a new (and very different) role within the AWF Madison group. In addition, I’m building a new house and have committed to training for an international competition in the USA. I’ve always embraced change where I can and a large portion of my career has been driven by change, not only change that impacts me personally but the reason for doing what I do in recruitment is dependent on change. My clients are almost always using my services to solve a change related situation. From replacing an existing staff member to building a team to respond to different business needs; the clients and candidates I work with on a daily basis are also either seeking change or responding to it.
While my change has been driven by positive elements and I had plenty of opportunity and time to discuss things and prepare… it was still bloody hard! New ways of working, different colleagues, different clients, different roles to work on; luckily I’ve had the benefit of some excellent management structures, strong communication all the way through and some firm direction when needed.
This has given me quite a refresher on the impact of change! I’ve had to really stop and think about how I manage things personally to make sure that I’m getting the best out of the change I’m going through. The following are a few tips that have really helped me:
If you are kicking off change in your own life, you can start small. Do you have a rigid approach to your work day or week that you never vary? Try moving some key tasks to different parts of the day; take a 10 minute walk around the block before you have lunch; implement a new process into your work, such as the Pomodoro technique, and see whether it helps you. This is all easier to do than you think and there is a physiological aspect to it. Even small changes can help to kick-start your brain into building new neural pathways and this can make change easier to accept. Be careful though, it can be addictive!
Once you become aware of change coming your way, plan for what you can. Take some time think about the impact and what it means to you. What will be different in your new situation? What is essential for you to perform your function and what is in place due to habit or convenience? How can you smooth your own path. This might be as simple as figuring the best way to get to work in a new job or rearranging the essential tasks in your calendar to better suit a different way of working. It doesn’t have to be big stuff – sometime the smallest tweaks can have the biggest impacts.
Change can be tough, even if you love it! Talk to people and express how you feel about the change; this helps you to process and deal with it. If you are looking to change too much too fast, discussing it can help you with perspective. If you are worried about the impacts of change on you, talking about it with appropriate people really helps! Don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable with change, it is a natural emotion. If you are leading change, don’t expect everyone to be on the same page as you. People have different capacities for change and it is essential that there is an opportunity for people to express their concerns and to receive information that resonates with them. A bit of effort in this space pays dividends especially with your late adopters!
Control what you can
Often when I’m speaking to people who are changing roles, the reason they give me for moving on is that there has been a change and they are no longer enjoying their current position. In this situation, I usually ask them if they have spoken to anyone about how they are feeling, often it is a no. You do not have to be a passive responder to change. Establish what you can control and control it. It might be sitting down with a manager and discussing your role and what it means to you, it may be that you take the initiative to establish a new way of working yourself that helps you deal with change. It may be that you decide to move to Nelson and open a café; different people have different responses but if you control what you can you will definitely have a better experience with the change process.
Keep in mind you can’t necessarily get away from change but you can definitely make it more enjoyable!