Over the past few weeks, I’ve spoken at events in Sydney, Melbourne, Wellington, Auckland, and Perth – and for clients in diverse industries, including banking, human resources, local government, sport, commercial property, and retail.
Despite their differences, one thing these organisations all have in common is they are all going through massive change. That’s not just because they are running change management programs – it’s because the world is changing so fast around them that they are forced to change.
Of course, this is true for almost every business in every industry. We all need to be constantly running “change management programs” – it’s the only way to keep pace with our fast-changing world.
Here’s the Point
Change is inevitable, and your attitude to change will determine your long-term success. The most successful people, teams, and organisations see change as an opportunity to embrace, not a threat to avoid.
Broadly, people deal with change in six ways:
- Ignore the change and possibly even be unaware of it happening around them.
- Avoid the change and hope it will go away. This is a risky strategy. Sticking your head in the sand and hoping the change will pass you by is rarely a recipe for success.
- Resist the change and try to restore the status quo. This can work for a while, but you’re constantly fighting an uphill battle.
- Adapt to the change and try to work around it, so it doesn’t get in the way.
- Embrace the change and find a way to take advantage of it.
- Lead the change by proactively creating it, rather than having to respond to it.
The first three coping mechanisms are just that: ways to cope with the change and react to it. They can be effective in the short term, but put you in a weak, vulnerable position for the future.
The other three approaches to change – adapting, embracing, and leading it – are much healthier.
How do you deal with change?
In a perfect world, we would all be change agents, who lead the change in our life, team, and organisation. But the reality is that different people deal with change differently.
If you want to bring people along the change journey with you, you can’t just adopt a “one size fits all” strategy. Different people need different things, depending on their current approach to change.
I think I can safely assume most people are not ignoring change, but let’s look at the other four levels below “lead”:
Here’s a brief overview of how to assist people at each of these four stages:
- Avoiding change: Build resilience. Resilience alone is not enough for being effective in a fast-changing world, but it’s a good start. And this is exactly where it fits. Change often brings stress and uncertainty, and people avoiding change need coping skills to deal with that stress.
- Resisting change: Reframe actions. People who resist change do act on it – it’s just that their actions are intended to roll back rather than moving forward. Help them channel that energy into more positive action.
- Adapting to change: Solve problems. People who adapt to change are already doing the right thing, so teach them problem-solving skills to be even more effective.
- Embracing change: Be antifragile. These people are even more effective because they eagerly look forward to change. The more you can create an environment that also embraces change, the more effective they will be. The word “antifragile”, invented by author Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book of the same name describes this kind of environment: Something is antifragile when it thrives on chaos.
Obviously, there’s a lot more to change management than I’ve written in this short article. But the first step to helping people cope with change is to understand their current view. It’s a crucial first step – often ignored, but essential if you want to bring people on the change journey.
- What approach did you take when dealing with change in a recent situation in your life? How could you have dealt with it differently?
- What do you need to do now to ensure you deal with change differently in the future?
- What is your team’s culture in dealing with change? If it’s not forward-looking, what can you do about it?