Change is the only constant. – Heraclitus, c. 535 – 475 BC
We live in a world of change. Everyday brings new experiences and new things into our lives. Most of them pass without notice, some are more important, and some are even monumental. Maybe we take a different route to work in the morning… no big deal. Maybe a wife gives birth to a baby boy or girl… very big deal. Neither of these events cause us to panic or hyperventilate, they are just “things that happen,” normal changes in our lives.
Change is one of the biggest fears in our lives, ranking right up there with public speaking, dying, moving to a new home, or starting a new job. But in perhaps 99% of all changes that happen to us–there is nothing to be afraid of! All of us have the tools and skill to do everything necessary to manage change and make the changes happen successfully.
Here’s a 4-step approach to managing change in your personal and business life:
- Understand what the change is and how it affects you and the employees you manage
- Communicate exactly what the change is and how it affects the people in your sphere
- Make a plan and explain what you and your people have to do to make it happen
- Do the things that make the change happen. This sounds simple, but it takes planning, time, and effort to make it work.
To demonstrate how this method works, let’s take an example, a new “Performance Planning and Evaluation System” at your company? This is a major change for most employees. Their performance is going to be measured in a different way, and their promotions and raises will be based on a new set of criteria. That could be monumental for some employees. How do you handle this situation? Let’s follow the four steps.
1. First, you, yourself, must understand what the change really means.
What is different from the old system, what is new in the new system. You need to learn what performance planning is and how to do it. You must also understand the company’s criteria for evaluating employee performance and measuring success. And finally, you must learn how to deliver a performance review.
2. You tell your employees how it affects them, explain to your group what the new system is and what it means to them.
If you think about it, in this particular example, nothing except the process actually changes at all. Good employees get recognized for their contributions and rewarded accordingly (maybe even more quickly). Less valuable employees still get recognized and suffer the same consequences (maybe even more quickly). You explain what a “performance plan” is and how to make one. You explain exactly what a “performance review” is and how you prepare for and give one. Maybe you can demonstrate a typical review with an example employee.
3. Then you make a plan of what needs to be done to make this change.
This is a list of actions for you and your people to accomplish. For this example, your plan might consist of five steps.
- You conduct a workshop or exercise to teach employees how to prepare a performance plan.
- You work with each employee to prepare a “performance plan” (i.e., the list of his/her job responsibilities and current and foreseeable task assignments). This is the “performance planning” process.
- You make a schedule of performance reviews.
- You prepare the performance review for each employee.
- You conduct your employee reviews by the schedule you prepared in Step 3.
4. You follow the plan and complete the change.
In this example, you start by conducting the workshop and giving your employees time to make their “performance plans.” You meet with employees to discuss and approve those performance plans. You prepare each employee’s evaluation and you conduct the performance reviews according to your schedule.
Change is inevitable, but all change is manageable. To manage change, you must recognize it, accept it, make a plan to deal with it, and then execute your plan. What you really need to do is break the change down into manageable steps, communicate these steps to your employees, and follow your plan to complete the steps.
Overcoming the fear of change itself is probably the most important step in the process of dealing with change and perhaps the most difficult. I offer a couple of suggestions: 1) understand that change itself cannot be avoided; it is going to happen… accept it; 2) when change does happen, determine how it affects you, if it helps or hurts you. If it helps you, rejoice and enjoy it!!! If it hurts, first you must stay calm, don’t panic. Then figure out what you can do to make the change as easy as possible and how to deal with the hurt.
Understanding change, knowing what is happening is key to accepting and dealing with change. The more you know, the easier it is for you to deal with change. The more your employees know about the change and your plans for dealing with it, the easier it will be for them to accept it and deal with it.
I also offer the following quotes that may help you deal with the fear of change.
“Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.” – John Wooden
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” – Mark Twain
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” – Ambrose Redmoon
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the judgment that something else is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all.” – Meg Cabot
“Fearless is not the absence of fear. It’s not being completely unafraid. To me, Fearless is having fears. Fearless is having doubts. Lots of them. To me, Fearless is living in spite of those things that scare you to death.” – Taylor Swift
NOTE: The first sentence of Meg Cabot’s quote about courage should probably be attributed to Ambrose Redmoon. However, I included the quote because the second sentence is significant in its own right. To paraphrase her thought with respect to this article, “Those who accept change will live forever; those who refuse to change cannot live at all. “