The first experience I had with change was serious. It wasn’t a new department, logo or brand change. Instead, it was when my company was sold to a larger department store.
I thought my world was coming to an end.
I was on a career track where I thought I would breakthrough and become a VP. Then, before I could even blink, the family sold the company and I was one severance package away from finding a new job.
I was faced with some difficult choices, having to make due with one of the most disruptive situations I’d ever faced in my career.
Perhaps you’ve experienced something similar. Whether it’s an unexpected company acquisition or simply starting a new role, change has become a constant in the swirl of everyday life.
Despite this, the responsibility of managing change is not solely dependent on the C-suite. Instead, it should start with your mindset as an individual.
And although change can sometimes feel overwhelming, there is power in understanding how you can best adapt and regain a sense of control. After all, you still have control of your choices and how you’re going to show up. You may not have anticipated the change but you’re still in control of the outcome and how you move forward.
Still, why is change so hard? And how can we face the seemingly insurmountable challenges while navigating through it?
Here are six steps that will help you move past the initial shock and master the odds of disruptive change.
1. Embrace the emotion. Understand change is like loss and it will be emotional. Let yourself and others feel and express the emotion up to a certain point of professionalism. The Kubler-Ross model is the foundational framework that illustrates change as very similar to the six stages of grief. When you fail to acknowledge emotions or push them down, it isn’t going to help you or those around you. Emotions must be dealt with at some time along the journey. Embracing the emotions allows you to address them and move forward.
2. Get your bearings. Understand what you do have control over and what you don’t have control over. It’s easy to think your situation was forced into your life. However, you’re still in the driver’s seat for how you handle the situation no matter the change. You’re still in control of the respect and dignity that can be experienced in the situation. And, you’re still in control of helping people understand the expectation of the change and moving forward successfully.
3. Discover your options. It’s important not to get caught up in what’s right in front you. Instead, you have to be proactive in seeing the possibilities of what could happen. Ask questions, gain as much information as you can about the current and future situation. In my case, the questions were, “Will there be job and growth opportunities?” “Who is the company that bought us?” “What will happen to the people in our stores and home office?” “How will the people I know and love be treated?” Finding the answers to these questions is a process and may not happen overnight. However, doing so will help you establish a strong sense of understanding how to best move forward.
4. Make your decisions. Once you’ve finalized your options, do everything you can to learn how to make the most of it. Take time to try it on for size and be proactive about how you can turn the negatives into positives. If it feels good and seems as though there’s opportunity, make a commitment to give the new process a try and actually work in the new setting for a while. See how it feels and if you think you can operate in the new environment. For me, I had to envision myself working at the new company and had to be sure I was aligned with their corporate values. I also had to decide if I could see my family being better off in a new community and how the company’s values would impact my everyday time with them.
5. Show up with purpose. This first requires you to get out of a victim mentality as quickly as possible and aim high with your character intact. Ask yourself, “What will it take to become a valuable asset in the new situation and, in the process, make my dreams come true?” More importantly, strive to become a person who is open and accepting of the change even if it has a negative implication on you. While you may never think there will be a job opportunity for you, you never know what doors may open. Working for a new company was an unexpected left turn I wasn’t prepared for, but I really gave it my best shot and lead from within. The new company saw this and eventually wanted me on their team.
6. Achieve a win-win. The speed at which you achieve a win-win is really the secret sauce. For you, your family and your company leadership. In the throes of change, you’re not always going to see a positive outcome. Still, if you deploy these techniques – accept the emotion, ask questions, show up in a way that portrays your personal character and be the kind of person others would want to be around – you can be in control of your outcome. Be intentional about discovering a positive outcome from this change and how it can propel you to a new place, a place that could be better than where you were before.
Ultimately, the key to success when dealing with change boils down to how quickly you can achieve a positive mindset. If you spend your time in uncertainty and negativity, it becomes debilitating. This is why you must maintain a positive sense of yourself and the situation.
But first, understand you will experience every emotion that comes with this process. None can be skipped. So it is with speed that you want to progress through each stage not just for the sake of being fast, but achieving a positive outcome or mindset of acceptance.
When you master these six steps and move from embracing the emotion to achieving a win-win, you can rise above the challenges of uncertainty and become a true change leader. I hope you’re inspired to do just that!