Embracing Change

December 6, 2004

Mastering Change: The High-Speed Line of the Human Superhighway

By: Chris DeVany

Why is change so troubling? Are there changes we can and cannot control? What sorts of change are affecting you, your colleagues and clients? How can you embrace change and capitalize on its opportunity? You didn’t think this was going to be easy, did you? Let us find some answers together as we explore these questions.

Why is change so troubling? Every time I ask a corporate audience, I consistently receive the same three reasons: uncertainty, perceived lack of control and fear of being extracted from one’s “comfort zone”. While these are valid concerns, let me address them point by point.

With uncertainty comes new situations, experiences and interpersonal relationships. With new situations and experiences comes opportunity for professional growth. With the opportunity of working with new colleagues and clients comes opportunity for personal growth.

Two other issues: lack of control and loss of “comfort zone”. Perceived lack of control is a pressing concern many of us have. Let me share with you the sound advice of Jack Baker, who I used to work with at Prudential Insurance. Said Jack, “There are some matters you can control, and others which you can’t control. I focus on those issues which I can control.” Sage advice from a sage man.

As to one’s “comfort zone”, let me share this idea: When you are too comfortable, you allow your defenses to drop. When you allow your defenses to drop, you are most vulnerable. Do you wish yourself to remain vulnerable to attack, or would you prefer venturing out of your “comfort zone” to attack your vulnerabilities? Your choice.

Let me share with you a five-step process to embracing change:

  • Acknowledge its presence

  • Identify likely changes (de-mystification, foresight)

  • Rank changes in order of significance

  • Communicate those anticipated and perceived changes to others

  • Collaborate with clients and colleagues to capitalize on the potential opportunities which those anticipated changes offer you

Let me suggest that by keeping abreast of the business press, particularly Fortune, Forbes, Business Week and The Wall Street Journal and any industry trade publications, you are reading some of the greater collected wisdom about business changes and trends.

You also are creating an environment for yourself to anticipate change and to share your thoughts intelligently with those you call friends, clients and colleagues. By familiarizing yourself with potential changes, you break down the walls of uncertainty and fear.

Now that you have identified likely changes, you need to rank them in order of significance. You should consider communicating these thoughts with mentors, advisors, managers and peers in order to gain some appropriate perspective. A broadened perspective allows you to better validate and prioritize anticipated changes and their potential impact.

The next step, mentioned above, is to explore the opportunities you as a “change-embracer” can take advantage of, and who you want to collaborate with in order to maximize your advantage. This is the time when you also should be marrying your activites with strategic organization objectives.

For example, if you work at a telecommunications firm and want to seize on de-regulation, what direction is your company headed in? Are they broadening outside their region, or are they as an organization trying to stay within their own “comfort zone”? These are very important questions. Link your own productive efforts with the organization’s.

Now that we’ve reviewed a model for embracing change, how are you going to apply it to what you do and the organization(s) you work for? That is your opportunity. Only you can best answer that question for yourself. Read diligently. Ask intelligently. Listen carefully. Plan accordingly. The best to you in all your endeavors.

Chris DeVany is President of Pinnacle Performance Improvement Worldwide, a training and consulting firm. Chris also delivers about 50 keynote presentations annually, many of them on the subject of change. If you have any specific questions about change-related challenges, call him anytime at 508-358-8070.

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