I’ve been reading quite a bit recently on change and change management. I’m sure you have too. Here’s my issue.
Everything we read talks about adapting to change, giving us tools, advice and tips. Change is inevitable, the articles state, and if we learn to manage it, our resilience and our lives will improve. Sounds reasonable. My issue is our understanding of the word “adapt.”
“Adapt” brings to mind giving in or letting go. I think we have it all wrong. What we need is to see change coming, grab it and take control of it.
Why Is It Important to Adapt to Change?
Let’s consider this. Where would our organizations be if we never adapted to change? One of the first presentations I gave in my professional life was entitled exactly that: What If Nothing Had Changed? I was working in a college that responded very quickly to the external environment. I went back 10 years, looking at programs and services we had offered then, along with size and revenue of those same programs in the current year.
It was an easy sell. When we embraced changes in the external community, new programs and services absolutely brought more to the bottom line than the ones from the past.
One of my favorite quotes of John F. Kennedy’s is “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.” By not only adapting to change, but encouraging it, alumni like Roosevelt master’s in organization development graduates have reshaped their organizations and built successful careers at companies like AbbVie, Accenture and Walgreen’s.
How to Adapt to Change in Your Organization
So what is the answer? I believe it’s seeking out change, change that makes sense. Take control of what you can. What I’ve learned in decades of being a professional is that often, lack of control is what pushes people over the edge. Find something you can control and help others find a way to feel in control, too.
The only thing we truly have control over is our reaction. We can control that, and accepting change can propel us to leverage aspects of that change to the benefit of our organizations and our place in them. You have the power of choice. Use it to your advantage.
Yes, here’s where I will say put yourself out there and do what scares you. As author Marilyn Ferguson wrote, “It’s not so much that we’re afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it’s that place in between that we fear. It’s like being between trapezes. It’s Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There’s nothing to hold on to.”
Most of us, at least when we are new professionals, are afraid of speaking in public. In my experience, I believe I’ve met only two people who really look forward to an opportunity to speak in front of large groups. Greg and Joe, it’s you two!
My own experience is this. As a high school senior, I was asked to address my graduating class. Keep in mind it was a group of 48 graduates, which meant we had hundreds of family members in the audience, all of whom I knew and who knew way too much about every detail of my 17-year-old life. Although it never crossed my mind not to speak, I will say that my voice was shaking so hard that everybody thought I was crying. I wasn’t crying, people, I was scared to death!
Now, many years later, I consider myself a decent, if not excellent, public speaker. To this day, though, I am exceedingly nervous ahead of time, including experiencing physiological symptoms (and I’ll leave it at that). My point is, take control, do what you fear and good things happen.
Sure, you can use a list of how to destress in preparation of scary topics. Few of them really work for me, but here you are, courtesy of Lifehack:
- Reduce caffeine and sugar (No, thank you; I like my Diet Mountain Dew).
- Avoid cigarettes, alcohol and other drugs.
- Get enough sleep.
- Practice meditation regularly (If you’re not a fan yet, here’s a great way to get started).
- Take time out and disconnect from technology.
- Spend time with people who have a positive impact on your life (and with Roosevelt’s new Lifelong Lakers program, you can learn while connecting with other alumni — a two for one!).
Let’s help people navigate the place where the blanket is out of the dryer, per Marilyn Ferguson. Let’s change the narrative away from “adapting” and more toward “anticipating.” Let’s begin with knowing that we can proactively control our reaction to the world around us.
Mablene Krueger is the chief operating officer of the Schaumburg Campus and the former president of Robert Morris University Illinois.