Change. You can love it or hate it but a critical element of success is learning to navigate it.
Cultivating essential skills can give you a huge advantage over those who are unprepared. This positioning has been known to create exceptional leaders that leap from history into our minds daily because they are quoted so often; Churchill, Eisenhower, Patton, MacArthur and countless others. All of these led during times of extreme change. (And it doesn’t get much more stressful than war.)
All elite performers and leaders train hard. Technical knowledge in your field is essential but emotional control is just as important. Leading well in the midst of change requires skills – and the good news is they’re learnable. Just like you can exercise to acquire agility and reduce the pain of sore muscles that have been worked in new ways, you can develop the agility to navigate change with grace.
Change typically flips the body into the stress response. Especially if there’s some fear involved – which is the norm. I like what Mike Tyson’s trainer says about fear: “Fear is like fire. It can cook for you. It can heat your house. Or it can burn you down.”
Here are 7 ways you can position yourself to benefit from change:
1. Get the big picture. Create a forecast for the future by considering cycles and patterns.
2. Make a plan. But recognize when it’s time let go of the plan. Adaptation & flexibility are important.
3. Introduce changes gradually whenever possible. Incremental change is easier to accept. Think about how critical it is for divers to decompress – it’s really painful (and dangerous) for them to ascend too quickly.
4. Be slow to react when presented with unexpected news. (Unless someone’s yelling “the building’s on fire”! ) Normally, you should give yourself time to formulate a response instead of reacting in the heat of the moment.
5. Cultivate an attitude that recognizes the benefits of change and look for seeds of opportunity within it.
6. Travel with a team that represents different personality types. I run full force into change with sword drawn, ready for action. One of my partners gets out the calculator, gathers information and ponders long and hard before taking action. Neither one of us have the correct approach. Different perspectives are invaluable.
7. Change the Changeable While Steadfastly Clinging to the Unchangeable. A specific exercise is to create a file on your computer or on a dedicated page in your organizer on which you make, modify, and maintain a list of those things that never change for you. Those things will be your anchor. List your core values, as an individual and in your business. (Thanks to Rabbi Daniel Lapin for this wisdom!)
The computer makes us fantastically more able to calculate, analyze and gather information, but it doesn’t make us more intuitive. We have instruments that have immeasurably extended our gift of sight, but not of insight. And it is these qualities; perception, wisdom and discernment that will serve best in navigating change effectively.
We are all born with ability to change, to adapt and to grow. So what is it about change that makes some people cringe and others grin? Is it personality? Experience? Leadership style? Comfort zones? Risk-taking ability? It’s probably elements of all of those things but our choice to prepare for it (or not) counts the most.
I find the comments of a Lockheed engineer regarding the Columbia Space Shuttle accident very interesting and directly applicable to the pioneering spirit that has been part of what has made our nation great. It’s a spirit of creativity – one that grasps the importance of change. Sometimes something’s lost to make great gains. Dan Canin wrote in his summary of the accident, “Every astronaut knows that it’s a known risk that if the soft tiles (of the module) are damaged, the shuttle burns up. But the odds against it are pretty good, especially compared to the rewards of being an astronaut, so they’re willing to take the chance. In fact, they fight for it…as would a lot of us. But the public expects every risk in their lives to be mitigatable to zero. Doing bold things isn’t about engineering risk to zero. Sh-t happens, and if we just want to restrict ourselves to things where sh-t can’t happen…we’re not going to do anything very interesting.”
Remember… security is mostly a superstition anyway.
Note: You are warmly invited to join me for the Free Tele-Class on Navigating Change liek A Champion. May 30. Register Here