Change Happens

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Bring up the topic of change and people’s response is likely to fall into one of three categories: they hate it and think it’s bad; they might like it if it’s small and measured; they love it and want to use it as a weapon to wipe out everything they dislike.

We aren’t in any of these camps. We view change as a natural part of life, neither good nor bad. We acknowledge that change in business is speeding up. Business processes, structure, and people are evolving much more quickly now (most likely because our technical tools and connected systems allow it).

Because change is constant and accelerating, business needs leaders who don’t fear it or enflame it. Business needs leaders who are change agents—leaders who articulate a vision and encourage change in that direction. Well-known examples include Marissa Mayer, Bill Clinton, Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, Oprah Winfrey, and Sheryl Sandberg. Many lesser-known leaders quietly follow the same course. 

Need to build up your own change agent ability? Here are some steps you can take:

Start small.
Start with minimal changes that impact you on a daily basis: Change how you arrange your clothes in your closet. Change where you store your kitchen utensils. Change your morning routine to include one new activity. Wear a new heel height or a new color or a new accessory. Put your watch on the opposite wrist. Read a book in a genre you’ve never tried before, like science fiction, history, or biology.

Shift perspective.
Work up to more central changes: Try maintaining a separate identity online (not to send naked pictures of yourself to co-eds—if you’re doing that you need more help than we can provide). Introduce yourself to a stranger in a novel way, highlighting something new. Rewrite your LinkedIn profile to offer a different perspective on your career.

Lead change.
Graduate to “change agent in training” status: Offer to lead a new project that will require you to learn something. Draft a plan to introduce a new product for your company (even if that’s not your job). Start moonlighting in a different career or create a startup that you work on each morning before you go to your day job.

Watch yourself.
Track your emotional state for a few weeks after making a change that seems significant to you. Notice slight improvements in your mood over time as you become more accustomed to your new situation. Understanding this pattern of initial emotional discomfort or resistance followed predictably by improvement can help ease your next change.

GO DEEPER
Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson
Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Change by Design by Tim Brown
Leading Change by John P. Kotter
Mindset by Carol S. Dweck