Can you control change?……That is the question…
In this article, I’d like to share with you some insights about change that I’ve gained through experience and through a bit of internet “searching” for answers. You see, I’ve spent most of my life thinking that the more control I have, the better. If I can control everything that goes on around me, then nothing can possibly go wrong. Boy, was I wrong! Change is inevitable. I just wish it hadn’t taken me into my 40’s to realize it.
To begin, I will share some quotes that I find particularly brilliant and then talk about some basics of change. Finally, I will provide some advice that I hope will help guide change in your organization.
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” Maya Angelou
“You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of.” Jim Rohn
“If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.” Gail Sheehy
I know, easy enough to say, not so easy to live. Sounds like it means that in order to handle change, you have to change yourself. And who wants to do that?? What I would say, is that people need to try and understand that coping with change is not about fundamentally changing the person you are. It is about changing your attitude, your perception and how you respond to your environment. But even with that in mind, I think it is important to acknowledge that change is not easy and that no one really likes change. Typically change is out of our control or requires some external force to make it happen. For example, starting a good habit or ending a bad one requires motivation of some sort and even then, not easy. A company closing its doors, being merged or being acquired – all out of our control. So my own quote about change is – If you don’t like it, change it. If you can’t change it, learn to live with it. If you can’t live with it, get out.
I’ve recently experienced some major changes in the organization that employed me for the past 20 years. After a roller coaster ride of finding investors, spending their money, finding more investors, spending their money and on and on, the company was finally forced to liquidate an asset to remain in business. One of the divisions of the company was sold. There were terminated employees, employees retained by the company and employees retained by the buyer. I was retained by the buyer. We are now in a “transition” phase. We are being integrated into the new company and transitioned out of the old company. Some not so lucky employees are just being transitioned out of the old company. Believe me, it is not easy, but here’s what I’ve learned about coping with change and about helping colleagues and employees cope with change.
People want to know what is going on. They feel uncertain about their role and they feel uncertain about their future. It is important to communicate often, but in small doses to reassure people and to keep them informed of the progress of the change.
Very often during major changes, there will be some information that is not going to be positive to everyone. The tendency will be to not share this information with people for fear of upsetting them and for fear of what their reaction might be. Trust that it is more important to be transparent, tell people what is really going on and give them an opportunity to digest the information on their own time rather than trying to “protect” them. People respect transparent communication even if the communication negatively affects them.
Acknowledge the loss.
Going through change usually mean a loss of some form for employees. They may be losing a colleague, a boss, part of their responsibilities, compensation – any number of things. It is important to acknowledge this feeling of loss. During communications with employees and colleagues, let them know that what they are experiencing is real and understood and that help is available to them if they need it (of course as part of the change planning stage, you ensure that help is indeed available).
Celebrate the small stuff.
As change starts to become accepted and even embraced, probably by some sooner than others, there will be moments when small milestones are hit and there are epiphanies of understanding. In communications, identify these, make a big deal, wave banners, and celebrate. This will help bring more positivity to the change process and keep the forward momentum going.
By following these simple steps, and practicing them yourself, before you know it, you will be celebrating the success of the change!