Change has been one of the constants in my personal and professional life. During my lifetime, I have lived in 33 different homes or apartments, lived in multiple countries and in multiple cities. When I was young, I recall my father announcing to the family that we will be moving to a new location. My mother would spring into action and prepare the family for our new life. She always had a plan. Change became a frequent event, and it became routine. I learned how to thrive in times of change.
One of the biggest changes in my professional life came on May 25, 2001. On that Friday evening, I received a call from my manager who wanted me to go abroad to take over a failing operation. It was unexpected as undertaking a foreign assignment was not part of our career discussions. After pondering on the discussion, as my mother did, I sprang into action, packed my bags, and prepared for my new life abroad. I boarded my flight Saturday evening and returned from my assignment 3 years later.
Three months after taking the helm, the events of September 11th unfolded, and another monumental change occurred. This time, the entire world was impacted, and a period of uncertainty prevailed. The business challenges became even more complex, and the assignment became more daunting. Despite that, the business recovered and my experience in that assignment was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I can certainly say that I thrived in times of change.
The recent pandemic taught us all that volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, also known as VUCA, can happen at any moment and we must be prepared for the unexpected. Follow these ten actions to prepare for uncertain times and learn how to thrive in times of change.
When I arrived at my assignment, I realized that being proactive was a requirement for my and the organization’s success. I recommend that instead of waiting for circumstances to dictate your path, take charge of your own destiny. Be proactive by seeking opportunities, anticipating challenges, and taking the necessary steps to adapt and grow. Embrace change as an opportunity for innovation and improvement and stay ahead of the curve by actively seeking knowledge and skills that will help you navigate the ever-evolving landscape.
Learn to Pivot
Developing the ability to pivot is crucial for success. There were times during my assignment when I recognized that the current course of action was no longer viable or effective and I found it necessary to pivot and adjust. Embrace flexibility and adaptability and be open to exploring new paths and possibilities. Pivoting allows you to realign your goals and strategies with the changing environment, enabling you to seize new opportunities and thrive in the face of uncertainty.
Prioritize What Matters
With change comes a multitude of possibilities and challenges, making it essential to prioritize effectively. I recall being overwhelmed by the number of actions needed to repair the business and I relied on proven prioritization methods to determine which actions to adopt and which ones to defer. I recommend you identify your core objectives and focus on what truly matters. Determine which tasks, projects, or relationships are most aligned with your goals and allocate your time and resources accordingly. Prioritizing allows you to maintain clarity amidst the chaos of change and ensure that your efforts are directed toward what will have the greatest impact on your success.
Create a Plan and a Playbook
Once my team and I assessed the situation, we sat out to create a well-thought-out plan and strategic roadmap based on a series of desired outcomes. We created playbooks for key business processes that we could reuse during the next period of uncertainty. Break down your goals into actionable steps and establish timelines to keep yourself on track. A solid plan provides a sense of direction and purpose, empowering you to make informed decisions and navigate through the uncertainties of change with confidence.
Leverage People and Relationships
During my assignment, relationships were vital to my ability to thrive. I spent a great deal of time building and nurturing relationships with as many people around me as possible. This was especially helpful given I was in a different country and challenged with learning the culture, the language, and the business environment. I recommend you surround yourself with a supportive network of individuals who share your vision and values. Collaborate with others, seek feedback, and leverage the diverse perspectives of those around you. By forging strong connections, you can tap into collective wisdom, gain insights, and find support during challenging times. Together, you can weather the storms of change and emerge stronger as a cohesive unit.
Focus on Performance
When I arrived at my assignment, I found that expectations from senior leaders in the company, local employees, customers, partners, suppliers, and local government were very high. This required the entire organization to focus on performance and deliver meaningful results. It required me to step out of my comfort zone, learn, uplevel my game, and lead more effectively. When faced with change and uncertainty, strive for excellence in everything you do. Maintain a strong work ethic, stay disciplined, and consistently deliver high-quality results. Be adaptable, open to learning, and willing to step out of your comfort zone. By performing at your best, you can stand out, seize new opportunities, and inspire others with your resilience and determination.
Change often brings obstacles and setbacks, and thriving requires perseverance. There were many times during my assignment when setbacks created a challenging emotional environment for me, and I learned to be resilient and persistent. Refuse to give up when faced with challenges. Embrace failures as learning opportunities and view setbacks as temporary roadblocks rather than permanent barriers. Stay committed to your goals and maintain a positive attitude, knowing that setbacks are merely stepping stones on the path to success.
A positive mindset is a powerful asset in times of change, especially for leaders. I recall doing everything I could to broadcast a positive demeanor, especially during the most difficult times. I once even played the Saxophone in an all-hands meeting to bring levity to the situation. To thrive, cultivate optimism, and focus on the possibilities that change brings. Embrace a growth mindset, viewing challenges as opportunities for personal and professional development. Maintain a positive outlook, celebrate your successes along the way, and surround yourself with positivity. A positive attitude not only enhances your own well-being but also inspires and uplifts those around you.
Thriving in times of change requires patience. Change takes time, and it’s important to remain patient and persistent in your efforts. I recall the business leaders being impatient with how long it took to turn a large ship around. I had to work hard to avoid rushing into hasty decisions or expecting instant results. Recognize that progress may be gradual, and setbacks may occur. Stay committed to your long-term vision and trust the process, knowing that with patience and perseverance, you can adapt, grow, and ultimately thrive in the face of change.
Prepare for the Next Change
We all know that there will be more changes at some point in our personal and professional lives. We need to be in a constant state of readiness and it’s important to prepare for the next event. Update your playbook, catalog what worked well and what didn’t, and create a process that works for you and your family.
I can say with a high degree of confidence and satisfaction that the assignment, which began with a huge surprise, was a great experience. I thrived both personally and professionally. It enriched my business knowledge, I learned how to navigate a business during macroeconomic volatility, I acquired a new language, forged life-long friendships, and realized significant financial benefits. I would do it all over again if I had the chance.
Change can be difficult, and it brings with it a tremendous amount of fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Embrace change by taking charge of the situation and create a playbook that you can use to increase your confidence and thrive during times of change.
I hope these ten actions will help you find ways to thrive in times of change. Please reach out to me if you need professional assistance with this topic. Drop me a note in the comment section below or through the Contact Me page if you have any questions.
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