Often times, as a leader, it’s easy to think the hard work we put into the creation of a well-oiled machine within both our team and our organization is then put in place to never experience change. The reality of this mindset, however, is one that will lead to disappointment and frustration because it couldn’t be farther from the truth. Why? Because…right about the time you have things in place is exactly when they are going to change – that you can count on.
Dealing with change can initially be quite an emotional experience. Feelings of fear, dread, frustration, anger, and disappointment are all common in the wake of sudden change – particularly when it’s a change that has presented itself, as opposed to a change that we specifically choose for either ourselves or our organizations. It’s something that feels very personal at first, especially when you spent many years building your vision for the company and had plans that felt comfortable because you had spent time developing them for a specific intended outcome.
So, know that when those unexpected changes strike, it’s ok (and normal) to experience all of those initial feelings. However, it’s NOT the time to wallow in them. One of the best things you can do is to identify each feeling, label it, and define it so that you can logically move beyond it…quickly. For instance, if you’re feeling fear about the pending change, ask yourself what it is that is creating those feelings. Similarly, if feelings of disappointment (or anger, sorrow, etc) arise, work to identify the root causes of those feelings, too. Remember – if you can’t label the emotion, you can’t ask the questions that will lead to logical solutions.
Ahhhh, logic….a leader’s best ally to combat emotions. Logic allows us to take that emotion and set it aside as we move forward. Logic also provides us with a way to gain control and do something about our current situation. Good leaders don’t sit still. Good leaders don’t settle for defeat. And, good leaders certainly don’t mind rolling up their sleeves and putting in the hard work.
With that in mind, let’s explore the logic of change.
- Change is rarely bad – often times it’s just…different. As leaders, we create visions for our organization(s), our team(s), and ourselves. We spend a great deal of time pouring over these visions, because they’re important – they provide direction, identify and define the “why” behind what we do daily, assist with clarity, and help provide purpose. It’s important to note that change rarely effects the overall vision of the company but, instead, tends to alter the “how” it is that we’re working towards that vision. Sudden change can lead us to suddenly question a multitude of organizational initiatives but, remember to put change into perspective – is this change, albeit unexpected, really something that is going to effect the overarching vision of the company, or is it something that will merely alter the “how” of accomplishing it?
When change arises, make a list of the top 5 areas within the company that this change will effect, and the top 5 areas that this change could possibly effect your clients. Upon review, you can then determine if these effect the vision/why of the company. Does it effect why your company is in the marketplace? Does it effect any of the marketing strategies you have in place? Does it effect the ethics of the company? If not, then it’s most likely something that is going to effect the “how” you operate internally. Keep in mind that while those changes are going take some work to integrate, they’re not something that is going to change the vision of the company.
- Even though change my be unexpected, you can still plan for it because, one thing is for certain – change will happen. Sometimes, we may even instigate the change ourselves. Regardless, planning for change is key. How do you do this? First, prepare yourself mentally – just knowing and understanding that change will happen and preparing your mind to accept it will help you move through the emotion stage quicker and get onto crafting productive solutions. Having systems and processes in place is also helpful when change come knocking. Processes should remain true even if there is a temporary change in staff; and, having well-structured systems in place will make it much easier for staff to either step in and help out temporarily or begin training for long term solutions. Take the time to create these things. They will be essential.
Start with the organizational chart of your business, as well as the job descriptions for each key employee or position. Next, make a list of what processes each individual has in place to help them do their job…and then document it. You’ll also need to plan for what to do if a particular individual opts to leave the business…even if you hope they never will. Having documented processes for each job/task will go a long way in helping make change – be it unexpected or not – much easier.
- Change can be refreshing! Change can be regarded as work and, when it occurs, will require work…that’s a given. In fact, that change may require you to reimplement certain skills that you haven’t had to use in a while. Building solutions as you lead your team through change will present opportunities for your team to grow together and to rely more on each other. Many will find they are surprised that it is better than expected and are energized not only by the changes, but also by the positive effects that change can bring.
When you become aware that a change is going to happen, let people know. If it is a big change, select a few key members of your team to share the news with first, and work together to create solutions with those individuals prior to any type of big, company-wide announcement. Another thing you can do prior to a public announcement is setting aside time to work on formulating standard answers to some of the most common questions that may be asked of you – having well thought out answers at the ready can go a long way towards making the news more digestible for the entire team. Plus, providing others with the opportunity to help with solutions will create more buy-in and ownership of both the change and the new direction the company will be taking.
- Change not only calls for creative solutions, but also forces us to ask why. Why do we do things a specific way? Another question that can be asked is: is there another way to do this (whatever “this” is) that would be better? When we give ourselves the opportunity to take a step back and ask these questions, it will allow for better solutions to be explored. Edward de Bono, a creative thinking expert said, “Creativity involves breaking out of expected patterns in order to look at things in a different way.” What better catalyst than change to spark creativity?
Create a spreadsheet to help outline the core problem or concern. For instance, if you are replacing a key team member, create a list of tasks or attributes that that person brings to the team. Now, instead of looking at the name of the person leaving, look at the skills that you’ll be needing to replace. This could mean that you’ll need to hire to fill the soon-to-be vacant position; or, it could very well be that a current team member (or members) within your organization have the necessary skillset(s) to take on some of those tasks because, even though important, they are things that could very well be handed off to others to complete. If you’re in the position of having to replace a client, let your entire team help you look for opportunities you may not be seeing to solve your problem. Often the most creative solutions come from unexpected sources.
- Change allows people the opportunity to step up and shine. As leaders we are excited to see growth in people and our team as a whole. It is the fuel in our tank and keeps us motivated. Over the years, there is been very few things that generate such a compelling moment for growth than change. For example, change can be a key member leaving your organization. This change allows others to step up and take on new responsibilities and reveal skills and strengths not yet shown. These skills and strengths are now deployed and built upon for the betterment of the individual, the team and the company.
You will be amazed at what happens when you give people the opportunity to step up…because they will. Select a few items off the list you created and tap people on your team to help with them – even if it is a temporary item. Having others know that you need help and value their input will do wonders for team morale, as well as solution finding and forward moment. Then, when someone excels at the task you gave them, make sure to publicly thank them.
- Change is needed. Honestly, one of the worst things a business can do is to stay the same – it creates stagnation. Day after day the world continues to move forward, and each year it seems to change more rapidly. If a business tries to avoid change, it will fail faster than if change were sought out because every failure holds lessons that ultimately lead us towards better decisions. If we simply stand still -actionless – it would be like trying to stand still on a moving treadmill…and it is going to hurt! Change forces us to put one foot in front of the other and, through that process, allowing us to both survive and prosper. The very worst thing we can do would be to ignore the possibilities of change as it will lead to certain and ultimate failure.
Because of the fact that change requires a lot of attention and planning, it may be a good time to spend a bit of time to revisit your bigger goals, too. Sometimes taking a moment to look at the “big picture” helps to put these smaller changes into perspective. Knowing that we have larger goals in the hopper allows us to make quicker decisions on smaller issues…and then you can refocus your attentions back to your larger goals.
- Change can come easier with time. As a leader, let’s face it – you have seen change over the years. In fact, the longer you’ve been a leader the more change you have probably experienced. However, we are ALL still standing despite those changes. We have survived. And, more often that not, we will have thrived. So, take a minute to review the change(s) you have experienced in the past and let that be the motivator you need to face any new changes with confidence – confidence that, each time you are presented with change, you will grow through the process. You’ll not only be stronger because of it, but you will lead better because of it.
Make a list of all the thoughts you have about impending change. For every thought that isn’t positive, use the space next to (or below) it to write down a situation from the past where change turned out to be more beneficial than you initially thought. This will train your brain to know that change is not only doable, but also positive and needed.
“Change is the law of life, and those who look only to the past and present are certain to miss the future” -John F. Kennedy
Many times, we – as marketers – either come into a situation during a time of change or are there to help other companies through their own time of change. Sometimes that change results in a company expansion, and a need for recruit via recruitment marketing arises. Other times, it’s a need for lean-sizing and efficiencies being sought within a marketing budget.
Regardless of the circumstance, virtually every time change involves moving into uncharted marketing waters. Fortunately, we love to be there in all those instances! If you’re trying to navigate a change within your company, let us help. It may be internal marketing to your team to support upcoming change, announcing to the public new and exciting changes and offerings, or simply working with a trusted online marketing firm to put together a strategic online plan that delivers results towards your goals and objectives. The team here at Transformation Marketing is definitely up for the challenge, so tag us in!