Learn to Embrace Change

I’m selective in the advice I take from my father-in-law. I don’t think I’m alone here. But on occasion, he slings some truth.

A few years ago I was sharing my feelings of professional stagnation, and the perception that there was no clear path forward within the organization.

Enter (unsolicited) counsel from my father-in-law.

Be patient for a few months. You’ll be surprised. A co-worker you never thought would leave will get poached by a competitor. A new customer market will materialize. Your manager will leave for a c-suite opportunity elsewhere. Company leadership will want to implement a new CRM or LMS software.

As much as I hate to admit, he’s often been right. Just when we think the ground is firm and static, it unexpectedly trembles and cracks below our feet. The result ranges from the catastrophic (job loss) to a wealth of new opportunities.

The old adage: The only thing constant is change.
Current market reality: The frequency and pace of change continue to accelerate.

The Ever-Changing Workplace

Change is threatening the status quo at an increasing rate.

Artificial intelligence

Changes in leadership

Industry disruption

New software and systems

 

Politically-driven policy change

Reorganization plans

Board and stockholder pressure

Tax Implications

 

The list goes on.

At a minimum, it requires pivoting existing products and services. More often it requires reinvention or development of entirely new offerings to survive and thrive. On the people side, it means we need new talent, skills, training, and education.

If we are to survive, our employees must develop an openness to change and a mindset that embraces inevitable and perpetual transformation. Individuals must become:

1) change embracers
2) holistic, systems-based collaborators
3) self-aware contributors
4) life-long self-directed learners

What is the Impact on the Company?

Retention Saves Money: Searching for, hiring, and onboarding new employees are incredibly costly. When new products and services are developed, it’s much less expensive to re-position or re-skill current personnel.

Agility is King: The number of positions requiring a narrow set of one-dimensional skills is shrinking. The most precious and irreplaceable employees can jump from team-to-team or project-to-project, adding value because they’re multi-dimensional and see the big picture.

Professional Development is Investment: Intentional and high-quality training and education pay off. Individuals are self- and other-aware are more productive and understand their distinct contribution to the current and future direction of the company.

Cross-Industry Learning: Silos and self-contemplation kill creativity and problem-solving. Employees who can glean lessons and wisdom from other industries and disciplines bring fresh perspectives and transferable solutions.

What is the Impact on the Employees?

Nurture Various Interests: Most of our greatest thinkers and doers have applied expertise in one particular area while cultivating other interests concurrently. Side projects and creative outlets often spawn innovation, creativity, and excitement.

Feel Appreciated: Companies display investment and appreciation through providing opportunities for employees to grow and learn. Employees who feel valued are more engaged and satisfied with their work.

Demonstrate Value: Employees who are self-aware can better communicate and demonstrate their specific skills and value. These are the ones who survive reorganization or shifting company priorities, resulting in an increased level of confidence when change comes.

Navigate a Fuzzy Future: Linear career trajectories are a thing of the past. It’s winding, messy, and unpredictable. Gaining new skills and embracing change results a growth mindset that pays off when a current role is modified or job expectations change.

 

The Good News (We can do this!)

Research shows that individuals are capable of learning to embrace change, develop a systems-oriented perspective, increase their self-awareness, and become lifelong learners.

The approach must be integrated strategically and intentionally:

Identify vulnerable roles and departments: Who is likely to experience disproportional change, redundancy, or elimination? Develop plans to gradually re-skill and train these individuals.

Integrate a change-embracing mentality: Where can we weave it into current onboarding, annual reviews, goal-setting, and 360 review processes? Consider an iterative approach over several cycles.

Leverage peripheral interests: What are our current employees’ hidden skills and curiosities? Let’s align them with the future direction of the company, then begin to nurture and develop those competencies.

Introduce growth-mindset: Which tools and training can we implement that emphasize learning from mistakes, embracing feedback, and persisting in the face of change?

For organizations to flourish and lead in the 4th Industrial Revolution, our current professionals must develop the skills and mindset necessary to navigate and re-invent themselves in the rapidly changing workplace.

 

 

 

Footnotes:

Jim Bright explains that we must confront complexity and change.

Wendell Berry encourages mutuality and cooperation across disciplines and industries.

Jeff Selingo describes recognizing the need for new learning and how to acquire it in real-time; developed through intentional practices and habits, and growth mindset.

Tasha Eurich defines what self-awareness really is and how we make it work for us.

Adam Grant shares about the reality of the unpredictable career path.

Carol Dweck introduced a growth mindset through her research as a professor at Stanford.

David Epstein argues that generalists will have the upper hand in a specialized world.

 

About the Author:

Brodie Theis Picture

Author: Brodie Theis

Brodie is a professor and consultant who leverages a cross-disciplinary approach to developing leaders, managing talent, and increasing self-awareness.  Prior to teaching and consulting, he spent over a decade in land development, business banking, and the tech start-up space.  He remains committed to the cultivation of human potential.

B.A. Urban and Regional Planning, Miami University
M.A. Higher Education, University of Michigan
MBA University of Cincinnati