“If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.” -Gail Sheehy
Change is necessary and uncomfortable. It is vital in order for us to continue to grow. We can only grow when we are challenged. Challenges only come when our situation changes. The causes of change varies from self-initiated to forced-upon by others or circumstances.
Let’s take a look at self-initiated change. This type of change comes from:
- Need to challenge our current thinking or circumstances.
- Need to change our current status or situation.
- Ability to see that changes are required before it is forced upon you.
- Just feeling bored or unsatisfied with the current status quo.
There are many more reasons why you would initiate a change. All of which puts you in control. You are in control of:
- Outcome of the change.
- Level and degree of change.
- Comfort level of the change.
- Circumstances of the change.
There are a 5 key stages of the change process that you should be aware off and what you can do about them:
- Change is uncomfortable and we need to face and overcome our fears. Fear is usually the number one reason why people resist change or give up. Fear does not go away, even if you are the one initiating it. Ask yourself these questions when fear sets in:
- Identify the fear. What kind of fear is it? Is it rationale or not? What is the possibility of it happening? If you were to put a number on that fear from 1 to 10, what would it be? What can I do to mitigate it?
- Remind yourself of how you had overcome fear in the past and what was the reward.
- Change your perspective from fear to opportunities. For example, instead of thinking about failure, think about how to be successful. Instead of a challenge, focus on the opportunity. Instead of the limitations, think about the possibilities.
- Resistance from yourself and those around you. Depending on the level of change, it is scary not just for you but for those around you. You might face resistance from the very people you expect support. However, always remember the reasons for the change. You need to be very clear and focus on why are you seeking change. What are your goals, desires or purpose for this change? Realign yourself back to the reason that you are pursuing the change. Read through what you have written down with regards to your purpose, missions or goals. Remind yourself. Explain and share them with others. Be open to their feedback and concerns.
- Distracted but get back on the track again. It’s easy to get started when the enthusiasm is high, the adrenalin is rushing and everything is new and exciting. Then time passes by and the distraction of other priorities or just the busyness of life comes into the picture. Distraction along the way may derail your outcome. Before we let that happen, it is good to have set up some time every month or quarter or mid-year to review. Review where you are today vs. your plans. Review what needs to take place next. What help do you need to get back on track?
- Disappointments drag you down but don’t give up. Failure and disappointment are just part and parcel of the learning process. Like growth that comes from change, we learn best through failures and disappointments. We learn what we can do differently, how to do it better and so on. The key is not to let the disappointments drag you down and then give up. Think about or remember , what got you to where you are today. How can use what you have learned to get to the next level. Remember your past accomplishments to build your self-confidence. It is easy for us to forget what we have achieved, what we have experienced, what we have learned and who we know that can help us transition. It is useful to review and remember. I have used this numerous times in my coaching role and have found that clients find great empowerment when they realise that they do have the abilities to make the transition. The motivation to pick themselves up and continue.
- Accountability and find someone to be accountable to. Hold yourself accountable to the change. You know the reasons for the change and the positive impact for you and those around you. In order for you to push through and achieve the desired outcome, you need to be accountable to doing the work. You can find yourself an accountability buddy. Someone who will hold you accountable and not let you get away easily. Someone who will push you and support you when necessary. I have found that this is one aspect that most people ignore or push aside. However, it is safe to say that the one who is successful is one that has someone they are accountable to. You can think about your partner, your friend, a coach, a mentor as options for your accountability buddy.
Change on your terms and remember that change is not a lonely process. Change is enriching when you are clear on the purpose, the impact on you and the people you love and going through it with a good support structure.
“Change before you have to.” -Jack Welch
We have all been there, done that and said it. What would happen if we stopped using certain words or phrases during performance review. What am I talking about? The top 3 most common “dreaded” words or phrases:
- Step Up: Yeah that’s right, you have heard it. Personally I have heard it and sadly I have used it. What does it even mean? It’s used as if everyone knows exactly what it means but truth be told really don’t. At least not to person hearing it. “You need to step up.” What does that mean? Step up to what? Instead of “step up”, what would be a specific feedback that would help the employee to improve? For example, “You need to step up on your leadership of the team.” To the person hearing those words, what does it mean? Does it mean “I need to shout louder so that people know that I am in charge?”, “I need to act more arrogantly so that my team knows that I am their leader”. What could you say instead of using the words “Step up”? Managers don’t be lazy. Think about the feedback that you want to give to get your employees to either reinforce or rectify a behaviour. Remember, for feedback to be effective, it needs to be specific, impact driven and suggestive for actions.
- “But”: The dreaded “but” word. No one ever hears or retains anything before the word “but”. What other options do we have to communicate areas of improvement or focus. “You are doing well but you are careless with the details.” What does the person hear? “You are careless and in trouble.” What could you say instead of using the word “but”?
- “Realise your full potential”: Potential. What is that? Who judges that? What is the basis of that judgement? Is the benchmark against what we have set for ourselves? Every one of us has “potential”. Potential to be great, good or average. The area that needs to be highlighted is what is useful to be developed further and what is not useful to be de-emphasized.
If you were to play the Taboo word game, what would you now say to your employee. How much thought would have to go into preparing for the discussion or review? What would you say differently?
Whenever we hear the word “Change”, the majority of responses would fall into these categories:
- Fear, Anxiety and Dread
- Fear and then Excitement
- Excitement and Anticipation. Probably only from the people who caused the change.
It is no surprise that as “routine and comfort loving human beings”, any thing that requires us to change or do things differently will invoke a negative reaction. Our perspective on “change” is almost always tied to something negative or bad. I think that all of us can relate to an experience where we had to “change” the way we worked or behaved and change is never comfortable. Change of routines and schedules can create anxiety, frustration because it means that we are no longer in control. At the center of the negative perception of change is the fact that we are no longer in control. For type A personalities, that is just disastrous. Unless of course as type A personalities, you created the change.
How and what can we do to change our perspective on “change”?
1. View “change” as an opportunity. I remember many years ago, when I was working in Microsoft, we were faced with the Internet Browser battle between Netscape and Internet Explorer. Netscape created a change in the industry to how we viewed the contents of the internet. There was a “mantra” at that time, “Embrace and Extend”. Embrace the net and extend the capabilities. In many ways that’s exactly what happened in the browser war. Internet Explorer embraced the features of Netscape and then extended it beyond and who can remember what happened to Netscape? I thought that was the best tagline. Much like Nike’s Just Do It. If we view “change” as “Embrace and Extend”, we are not viewing it as a threat but as an opportunity.
2. Embrace the change. Embrace the change, take the opportunity to learn and develop your skills or adapt to the situation. The faster we are able to see the situation through the lense of opportunity or development, the faster we are able to shift our mindset of resistance to adapting to the change. Embracing the change will required changes to how you do certain things, what you do as well as who you might need to work with. None of those areas are negatives, all can be positives as it will serve as a platform for growth and learnings.
3. Extend the change. Extending the change now serves as a platform for you to be ahead of the curve and maybe even cause you to be at the forefront of leading the next wave of change. To extend the change requires you to shift your perspective from taking on the change to leading the change.
Change is the only constant and our survival depends on how self-aware and self-critical we are in order to view perceptions and perspectives differently. Questions that you can ask yourself: What is driving the negative perspectives towards that change? What skills or abilities do I have today that can still be used? What skills or abilities do I need work on in order to be successful? What can I do or actions to take that will remove the fear or doubt? Reflect on the past, how did you handle changes in the past? What would you do differently? What are the opportunities that will arise from this change?
As the Borg tagline in Star Trek goes “Resistance is Futile.” Always be a student of change and never the victim of change.
Have you been asked this question before? Are you like a farmer or a hunter? A farmer is one where you will take the time to plough the land, sow the seeds, fertilise and wait for the plant to grow and then harvest it. A hunter on the other hand is one where you will track a target, size up the target and then seize upon it. As an example, these 2 metaphors have been used to describe people in sales and marketing roles.
What are the similarities of a farmer and a hunter?
- A clear desired outcome. Both know what they want to achieve at the end of the process.
- Have a strategy and action plan in place and execute it. In order to achieve their goals, both need to have a strategy on how to make it happen.
- Have to be skilled and competent in what they are doing. Need to have the know-how to be successful.
- Need to be patient and persevere as they wait for the harvest.
What are the differences of a farmer and a hunter?
- Mindset and perspective. A farmer looks forward to a big harvest while a hunter’s target is very specific.
- Approach in getting to the end result. A farmer needs to prepare the land first before sowing the seeds in order to achieve a good harvest while a hunter needs to identify the target and then track it until its time to close the deal.
- Time frame. One might take longer than the other hence having the right expectations of time frame is critical.
- Personalities. Clearly there is a need for different personalities and attributes in each role that gives it an edge. Myers-Briggs profiling have indicated that some profiles are better suited for certain roles.
I feel that sometimes we focus far too much on the differences that we do not appreciate the similarities and therefore face unnecessary conflicts as a result. To put this into a workplace perspective, it is very common that there are conflicts between the sales and marketing teams. Most of the time, these conflicts are just because of differences that I have mentioned above – perspectives and approaches along with time frame of when things happen. If we focus instead on the similarities e.g. a common goal, trust in the other’s skills in performing their role and agree on the time line of execution, these potential conflicts can be minimised.
So which one are you? Each with their strengths and rewards. Each with their unique traits and characteristics that will make them successful in their roles. The questions are:
Do you know which one you are? How would you continue to develop either one of these approaches? How can you be a better farmer or hunter? Can you be both a farmer and a hunter? How can both the farmer and hunter work together for the good of the group. After all, we don’t just want to eat meat or vegetables all the time, right?
I was watching a lot of team sports recently e.g football and even cricket. It made me realise that team work is such a natural part of those sports. Every player plays with a common goal, knows their role in the team and executes it to the best of their abilities. Then there are sports like golf or tennis where you only see the player as an individual contributor out on the course or court but you know that behind the scenes there is a group behind them. The behind the scenes group works together to help the player become the best and even get all the limelight. Perfect example of how a team works whether to promote one person or as a team.
I immediately asked myself, “Why does team work or collaboration not work like that in the workplace?”. “Maybe it just doesn’t happen in a workplace where rivalry and competition means to tear people down vs. to motivate for better performance.”. I have been fortunate enough to work in teams where there was great synergy and team spirit. I have also worked in an environment where it’s all about “me”. I believe that every one in the workplace wants to work in a great team where everyone is just working together and achieving great results as a team. Why does it not happen all the time? Why is it one of those “lucky” or “chance” moments?
Reflecting on what I had experienced, I have come to 2 simple conclusions.
1. Common Goal. A lot has been said about having a common goal. But what is it really? Is having 5 goals a “common” goal? Is it just having 1 goal a common goal? Too many goals even if its common will certainly confuse things as the question becomes which one do we prioritise and when do we prioritise which goal. One goal might sound too simplistic but it is powerful. As an example, I am sure that when a sports team is in a match, there is only one goal, that is to win the match. It doesn’t matter who scores the goal so long as someone does. In the same way, for a team to be successful, there needs to be a simple, clear goal that everyone is able to articulate at any time and it does not matter who is the “star” so long as the team wins. In order for that to happen, I believe that the next critical element is trust.
2. Trust. Trust in the person in your team to do the job. Without trust, there is no team. It is just a group of individuals doing whatever they see fit. How does trust come about? Trust in the person’s abilities and skills hence each must have a certain ability or skills set that is valued by the team. When there is trust in the person on your left and your right to perform in a certain way and consistently deliver results, the team synergy will just flow and gets better over time. However, since no one is perfect and each with their unique strengths and weaknesses, recognising that and having the right expectations sets the stage for basic trust. As they say Trust is earned and that’s certainly true in the workplace. Therefore if a new team is formed, I believe that the first building blocks of trust is to be open and honest about what we can and cannot deliver. Over promising and under delivering are never good traits to building trust.
I am optimistic that there can be great team work in the workplace. I have simplified the issues, challenges and what we can do to build great teams with the above 2 elements. I do believe that it’s a start.
What do you think are other elements that will help in team work? What are your experiences and learnings from working with teams? How can we build great team work?