Managing Change at Work

Submitted by SharpMan Editorial Team on Friday 15th October 2010
In this article
  • Six strategies for taking advantage of a situation.
  • The value of being incompetent.
  • How to get people to literally follow you anywhere.

In this SharpWork installment, Los Angeles-based management consultant Terri Gonzalez writes about how SharpMen can save their hides and climb higher in a changing workplace.

Corporate America is changing…or at least slowing…forcing workers throughout the country to play by different rules and adjust to a new reality. In the new millennium, mergers and acquisitions, increasing competition, downsizing, rightsizing and restructuring affect more and more people. Sound familiar? Keep reading for the SharpWork story on how you can make yourself more valuable during this transitional time:

Change: It’s Going On and Ongoing

Most people instinctively resist change, in the workplace or otherwise, because they fear they will lose something they value. For example, due to restructuring, your responsibilities may change, your friends may be required to change departments or locations or you could be moved into another department. That type of change is relatively easy to accept because it only involves a shift in direction, not an objective loss.

On the other hand, coworkers, friends and subordinates can be laid off. You may lose decision-making authority over projects or budgets. You may find yourself working for someone with whom you had no prior contact, and who is just the type of person that caused you to leave your last job. You may lose control over your own time, and no longer spend time doing an activity you enjoy, such as talking on the phone, interacting with clients or managing projects. You may even be asked to move to a different city or state. This type of change involves giving up something and is more difficult to deal with.

While there are different needs and different ways of reacting to change, working for others — or yourself — will always require SharpMen to deal with and adjust to variations.

Strategize: Change Equals Opportunity

Of course you want to succeed in new circumstances, but you may find it difficult to embrace changes in your work environment. You may be frustrated because your routine has been interrupted, but realize that some change is never-ending.

Once you become accustomed to the fact of changing circumstances and learn to take advantage of it, your frustration will decrease. After all, people can prosper and grow as a result of having different conditions thrust upon them.

Try to focus on what is next. Think strategically. Identify your company’s needs and the potential benefits of the new situation. Determine how to take advantage of a new situation and execute a plan. You may not see the results of your efforts at first, but don’t give up; keep plugging. Consider the following suggestions for your plan of attack:

Be incompetent. Step outside your "comfort zone." If you are comfortable with everything you are doing, you are not learning. Try new things, even if you don’t necessarily think they will work. In fact, make a point of doing whatever you are not comfortable doing. Give that marketing pitch, prepare that complex report, lead that training or that orientation. Yes, this strategy involves stress, and no, you don’t want to be incompetent in the long run. But you will be happy when you master new tools and develop new skills. You may even learn to speak in front of groups, manage teams or learn a new technical skill.

Be the MVP. Become indispensable within your company and among your peers. You can be someone who makes others better at what they do. Learn about your company’s goals and then think of ways that you can help your company achieve the goals. Identify needs in your company that are not being met and find ways to meet them. If someone else is working towards meeting a need or achieving a goal, help find and develop new ways to achieve the goals. Put yourself in a position where you can add value to your company. If your company is all about research and development, research and develop. If it is all about sales, sell. If it is about service, then serve. Then help others around you to research, sell or serve.

Be flexible. Try to get comfortable with any new situation and show people that you are able to work in different environments and with diverse styles. People love someone who is able to work anyplace, anywhere, anytime–and who gets results. Just because you have always done something one way, or you like doing it one way, or you think it ought to be done one way, does not mean that is the only way to do it. Think "politician." Be willing to compromise, or learn to just accept someone else’s way of doing things. Also, motivate yourself to develop a new way of doing something. Corporate America loves innovation. Think the Wright Brothers and Henry Ford.

Be the nice guy. Treat everyone as if they are the CEO. Be courteous to everyone (even the mailroom guy and the woman who takes out the trash) at all times. Make time for helping other people with their problems. Relationships are vital in the workplace, now more than ever. By building and maintaining strong relationships you are setting yourself up for success no matter what the state of the economy. And do not restrict yourself to people who work with your company. Start up a conversation with people in elevators, next to you at basketball games or standing in line. Make your face a welcoming one.

Be a whiner. Whine with a purpose. Provide constructive criticism. If you do not agree with something, speak up. But provide specific alternatives that will produce the intended results and avoid current roadblocks. Be willing to listen, negotiate and compromise. But be careful: never make it personal. When phrasing your thoughts, focus on the desired outcome, not your like or dislike of the person or the process.

Be silent. Listen and be heard. Good listeners are few and far between. Being a great listener can win you friends, boost your business profits or advance your career. It can make people feel so good about being with you that they will literally follow you anywhere. Listen without thinking how you are going to respond. You cannot really listen to others respectfully when most of your attention is focused on what is going on in your head. You will find that if people feel heard, they will not only want to talk to you more, but will also ask what you have to say.

Succeed: It’s Payback Time

Change takes no prisoners and offers no safe harbor. Every successfully survived change adds to your confidence. Those who take advantage of change will survive into the next millennium with wisdom and careers intact. Your ability to respond and adapt quickly in the midst of change will be a great leverage point for achieving sustainable competitive advantage in both the workplace and your personal life. You will become resilient and consistently able to rise to the occasion. Your productivity will increase. You will develop new skills, experiences and relationships that will make you more valuable and marketable both inside and outside of your company. You may well be on the road to a new career, a happier life and a better you.

This article last updated on Friday 15th October 2010
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