I heard someone observe the other day “Change has never come at us as fast as it’s coming today, and it will never be this slow again.” When the statement was uttered (and several times since then when I’ve used it in multiple settings), there seem to be two collective responses:
First, there’s an audible groan. A sigh. A deep exhale. A comment like “I’m tired just thinking about it”, or “that sounds exhausting!” These comments come from wonderful, capable, talented, ambitious, driven, intelligent people. People who are widely-valued and fully-appreciated by those around them. People known for getting things done and for leading others.
Second, no more than a heartbeat later, there’s a collective leaning forward. A fidget. A flutter of papers and a scuttle of chairs as people sit up straighter and get ready for what’s next. These actions also come from equally wonderful, capable, talented, ambitious, driven, intelligent people. People who are widely-valued and fully-appreciated by those around them. People known for getting things done and for leading others. And some of them are the very same people who sighed and groaned in the first collective response.
Please know, there’s no value judgment here. No critique of the sigh. No criticism of the flutter. Just an awareness that our responses are real.
Change is coming at us fast. Relentlessly. Moving. Us. Forward.
But in order for “us” to move forward, we need to understand all of “us” and our readiness for the journey ahead.
Some changes are long-awaited and eagerly-anticipated. Some changes seem more unexpected or surprising. Most fall somewhere in between.
At work – new buildings, new teams, new processes, new tools, new leaders, new colleagues, new jobs, new projects, new customers, new skills
At home – new family dynamics, new houses, new cars, new windows, new life-stages, new hobbies, new interests, new pets, new appliances, new tools
The thing that is new is always a bit unfamiliar. We let go of what was, and take hold of what will be. And as we transition from the former to the latter, there’s a somewhat predictable process we follow. Countless experts have studied it. Many have documented it. A handful have published their version of it. Too many have driven stakes with unkind labels in the ground, somehow criticizing those who would prefer a slower pace of change than a faster. As they make their “labels”, those critics often carelessly discard the valid concerns of those who say “no”, without listening with a discerning ear for the risks at hand.
Whatever tool or process or technique we apply to the changes we’re facing, the critical piece is to understand and continue to value the people involved.
So how do we do that? Three simple steps.
1. Consider the Who
- Who is about to experience the change?
- What are they letting go of and how do they feel about it?
- What are they taking hold of and how do they feel about it?
- How comfortable are they with the process of change and transition?
- How familiar are they with the processes of change and transition? (comfort and familiarity in this case are not synonymous. I may delight in the “fun” of change, alternatively I may not define change as “fun” but still be familiar enough with it that I can navigate through it fairly quickly.)
- How can we understand them, and how can we show that we value them?
- What will they need to help move them forward?
Connecting with the "who" will help us get through.
2. Show Some Empathy
Try showing a willingness to view things from their lens. This can be demonstrated by asking questions, using ears more than mouth, listening to understand rather than to argue. We must demonstrate empathy for where each person in this change might be coming from – whether they say we’re changing too fast or not fast enough.
Empathy will help us find the right pace together.
3. Seek and Share Information
We must educate ourselves and those around us on the journey ahead and on the predictable elements of change and transition. We must take time to gather information and insights from those who are impacted. And we must make time to share information, questions, concerns, adjustments along the way. Ensuring that we are all educated on the journey ahead will help us all see and celebrate the milestones and keep focused during the uncertain times. Information will help us stay on the path together.
Information will help us stay on the path together.
Change comes at us faster each day, so we have no choice but to continue to improve our collective ability to lead and drive change. It’s okay (and probably even a good idea!) to sigh a bit first, take a deep breath, and then lean in for what’s next.