By Ines Quandel
Today the weather changed, it went from mid-twenties and sun to mid-teens and cloudy. The change was more pronounced as it came with strong gusts of cold wind. It’s not an unexpected change, after all it’s the end of August and I live in the mountains.
The old saying goes that “change is the only constant in life”, and if we look at all the changes we experience in a lifetime all of us would heartily agree with that sentiment. We learn to walk and talk, make new friends, and explore new places, along with a myriad of other new skills, both social and vocational. Falling in love is a wonderful change, falling out of love a hard one, and the in between of our relationships is filled with stages, phases, and changes. At work we are taught to strive for change, to move up the ladder, or sometimes laterally to broaden our skill set, and to work with new colleagues and new clients. In all aspects of our life change is part of the normal narrative.
For most of us these changes are not unmanageable, because we are taught how to deal with them and we have some understanding of what the outcome of the change will be. Many others before us have made new friends, started new jobs, and travelled to new places. We all know that when you meet someone new you exchange names, and a bit of general information such as what you do for work, where you’ve lived, whether you have a spouse and children. We can expect an orientation and some training for a new job, maybe even a buddy to help us settle in. There are travel planners, destination photos, and local guides for even the most exotic places to help us enjoy our vacations. There are templates for these changes, others who have gone before to hold our hand. The changes are expected and known and therefore not really all that scary.
On the flip side we are told that as humans we are not good at change. In the world of work, the field of change management is dedicated solely to understanding how to properly lead a business through organizational changes. The risk of failure is high, because it’s hard to get employees to accept changes. Socially there are plenty of books advising us on how to live a healthier, happier life and yet we struggle to make those changes happen. That’s because the outcomes aren’t always clear to us and the one thing most of us dislike is the unknown and the unexpected. We can’t plan for the unknown, we aren’t prepared for the unexpected and when they arrive we need to react without having a template to follow or a guide to help us cope. We are not as good at the kind of change that involves finding our own way instead of following a guide of some sorts.
Just because there is no guide, doesn’t t mean we can’t handle a change in a positive way. I love my comfort zone as much as the next person, but life keeps throwing changes our way. Given the option of either freaking out or adjusting to a new situation, my preference has been to learn handle changes. Negative change management, like sticking our heads in the sand in an imitation of an ostrich, is not our only option. There are skills that help us respond effectively to the unexpected and get us through the unknown. Analysis and research, networking and coordination, creative thinking and problem solving, and communication skills can all be learned. These skills allow us to assess the change, drum up help if needed, and come up with an effective way to deal with the change, even without a guide. We are also all capable of adapting and of re-establishing our comfort zone. It’s something that we have done in many small and big ways our entire life.
To learn more about Leading Through Change please join us for a WomenIN webinar with Kelley Curtain, Wednesday October 7th, 2020 at Noon.