It’s a cliché, but change has always been the only constant. In recent times, the pace of change has accelerated greatly, and we all need to find ways to deal creatively with this fact of modern life. Leaders, in particular, need to face and manage change in a constructive way, but everyone who wants to be successful – in career, in relationships, in life – must learn how to see and manage change the way that successful ‘change leaders’ do. Such leaders are adaptable and creative, responding to change in three key ways.
1. People who respond well to change will have a high ‘ambiguity threshold.’ Change is inherently ambiguous, and those who deal creatively with change will have a high tolerance for uncertainty and ‘shades of grey.’
2. Skillful managers of change will have a constructive ‘internal monologue.’ They will see themselves as inherently powerful and having the ability to control elements of the situation in which they find themselves. Some circumstances cannot be changed, but the way we respond to them is always a choice, and we always have a sphere of influence, however small. By focusing on this sphere of influence, and not expending energy bemoaning the area outside it, the circle will start to expand and give us progressively more control. Solutions to problems always exist, and the ‘internal monologue’ should reflect the desire to find them and the certainty that they can be successfully implemented.
3. Those who deal well with change will have a good reservoir of emotional, physical and mental energy from which to draw when things get tough.
The above ways of dealing with change tend to be innate, with some people having a greater capacity for one or more of them than others. However, they can be learned, and the following are seven tips for improving your skills in managing change.
1. Spend time reflecting on your own core values and your mission in life. A sense of purpose is essential to success and effectiveness, and those without a clear idea of what they are doing and why they are doing it will not have the foundation to keep going in the face of change.
2. Be persistent. Success is usually more to do with tenacity that genius. Persistence is only possible when you have clarified your values and when you are able to build on the bedrock of purpose. Successful people keep going in the face of change, finding new and creative ways to achieve a positive outcome.
3. Be flexible and creative. Persistence does not mean pushing through by force. If you are unable to achieve success one way, try another, and then another. Keep looking for more creative solutions and innovative responses to problems.
4. Think outside the box. Read widely, and don’t confine yourself to your own area of ‘expertise.’ Try to see links between apparently separate and diverse elements in your life and experience.
5. Accept uncertainty and be optimistic. Life is inherently uncertain, so don’t waste your energy trying to predict the future. Of all the possible outcomes, focus on the most positive one. This is not to be a ‘Pollyanna,’ but to accept that if you respond well and work to the best of your ability, a good outcome is as likely as any other. Don’t waste your energy being negative.
6. Keep fit and healthy. Eat well, get enough sleep, exercise regularly. Meditation can help, too. This will keep up your energy levels and allow you to keep going in tough times. Not taking care of yourself physically, mentally and spiritually is foolish and short sighted.
7. See the big picture. Change is inevitable, but if you take a bird’s-eye-view of the landscape, the change won’t be so disorientating and you will keep perspective at all times.