It's that time of year in Colorado when the aspens turn. Entire hillsides are ablaze with the bright golden glow of shimmering aspen leaves, dancing their final performance before they flutter to the ground and rest for the winter. Carloads of leaf-peepers flock to the mountains to catch a glimpse of this stunning transformation of yellow and orange before the first snowflakes begin to fall.
Seasons come and go, both in nature and in our human existence. Change is inevitable, and, in many circumstances, there's not much we can do to stop it. Many of us invite the start of a new season and the unknown adventures it holds-- but how adaptable are we when a call for change beckons in our personal or professional lives?
The ability to initiate, manage and lead change is a competency of emotional intelligence. People who are good at this tend to recognize the need for change ahead of time and look for ways to make it happen. They remove the barriers that may slow things down even if it means challenging the status quo. They're not afraid to stand up to opposition -- even more, they're good at rallying others to champion the change along with them by setting an example of mental agility and flexibility.
Those who struggle -- and this may be most of us -- tend to ask things like, "Aren't things fine the way they are?", or make comments like, "This is the way we've always done things around here" and "It's worked up 'til now -- why change it?" They tend to lack the ability to keep an open mind when major adjustments are made and are often blindsided when a shift occurs.
“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.” ― Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, author of Frankenstein.
Whether we embrace change or invite change--it's going to happen. As made popular by the folk-rock group, The Byrds, the song, "Turn, Turn, Turn", written by Pete Seeger, was a 1950's adaption of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 and paints a clear picture of how there is a season for the different aspects of life -- and that these seasons will come and go.
"To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven..."
Resisting change is like resisting the clock to move forward. Change will and is happening all around us. Where will you be when it does? Will you be the one kicking and screaming or the one out in front guiding others toward the new directives? Can you learn to go with change, thrive in change, and even lead change?
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” ― Lao Tzu
Here are some tips if you're prone to resist change to the point that it's beginning to limit your development or trip you up.
- Reflect on your current state of affairs -- dive into areas like professional relationships, personal relationships, achievement of goals, satisfaction, excitement for life, financial comfort, contentment, stress levels, etc., and ask yourself, "How's that working for you?" Note any areas that could be improved upon.
- Challenge the status quo. Ask yourself, "In a perfect world, what would each area of my life look like?" (Or, within your company, what would you and your teams be producing, achieving, and experiencing in a perfect world?) How would I (we) feel if I could shift things to that ideal? What could I (we) accomplish if these changes were to occur?"
- Brainstorm. Which small shifts could you make to turn these areas of life in a new direction? No matter how crazy or silly the adjustments may seem, jot them down. If you're having a hard time coming up with ideas, consider teaming up with a social + emotional intelligence coach.
- Note the impact these small shifts may have on you and others. Who will be impacted? How will they be impacted? Be sure to include both the negative and the positive potential outcomes.
Once you've taken these steps, it's time to develop a written plan for change initiatives. This plan should include:
- Your vision for the change. An example vision statement template to use is, 'I want to ____ to create _____ in my life." Or, if the changes are for the growth of your company, 'I want to _____ to create _____ in our organization."
- A list of short-term and long-term changes that need to be made.
- A sense of urgency. Write down why these changes need to happen and when you'd like them to happen. Set goal dates on each step of the change initiative.
- A council of wisdom (friends, colleagues, a coach, trusted advisers) to provide a multitude of counsel as-needed.
- Strategy. Which steps will you take first? Which steps will come next? Does this order make sense? Check in with your council and bounce your ideas off of them. It's OK to revise the strategy as you move forward if needed.
- Action Empowerment. What hurdles are keeping you from making the change needed? What hurdles are keeping your teams from making the changes needed? Learn what needs to be adapted to allow for action to take place.
- Collaboration. Communicate these changes with those who will be impacted. Be sure to communicate clearly your vision and how they are to be involved, as well as how the changes will positively impact them. Make sure each team member understands their role and what's expected of them to help make the changes happen. Ask for their input, their thoughts, their reactions. Let them know you are there to support them as you navigate the new paths ahead.
- Celebration. Develop a plan for congratulations to yourself and your team members as you hit short-term goals. Maybe it's a Friday morning coffee to talk about forward movement, or a weekly happy hour, or a quarterly lunch to celebrate successes.
- Anchoring. Are there shifts in your routine you'll need to adopt to allow the change to be a part of your daily life? Are there shifts in the culture of your organization that need to be made to incorporate the change as the new status-quo? Define what these are and see what steps you can take to create a safe space for the changes to stick.
Learning to not only adapt to change but initiate change can make room for new leaves to blossom in the next season, enabling you and your organization to grow and bloom to your greatest potential.
“The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.” ― C. JoyBell C.