Responding to Change

Things change – every moment of every day. The stock market goes up 300 points and the very next day down 800. Every week it seems there is a story of some long-successful business being acquired by some other company. And out of the blue, one of your rock solid customers calls one day to inform you that the relationship is ending, as her management has now decided to go a different direction. There is and will always be forces working against your ability to get too comfortable with economic, job or any other kind of security in life.

Even the best of us can fall into feelings of helplessness or futility, based on all the uncontrollable change that is constantly bombarding us. However, the leaders who emerge from all of this, are those who rise above feeling like a victim, and start doing something to re-establish some kind or order and control. Rather than wallowing in what is being done to them, they step up and start focusing on what can be done by them.

Part of becoming a victim is the quick and easy practice of substituting blame in place of accountability. “Poor me. How can anyone expect me to excel, when I no longer have control over things like time, budget resources, support and other things I need to do top flight work.”  

Well here is the sad reality. Although you may be right about the impact of some uncontrollable change, it does not matter much. Regardless of all the forces of change happening to you (and others), you are still expected to deliver. So it is best to stop feeling like a victim, and start stepping up to some kind of action.

I chuckled in amazement about one example of being the victim. On Labor Day evening last year, one of the local news stations had a quick report that the movie box office receipts for the holiday weekend were the lowest in twenty or so years. They went on to say that Industry experts blamed the sagging sales on the return of kids to school.

Really? They offered no facts about the increased number of kids in school this year compared to years past. In fact, they offered nothing but this lame excuse. I would counter their excuse with one of my own. Sales slumped because of lousy movies. If people think Netflix, baseball, or for that matter root canal is better than the movies being shown over Labor Day, they will pass on going to see them, which apparently they did.

My advice to the movie makers: stop playing the victim and start producing a good product. You have enormous control over the quality and desirability of your movies. And because of tough competition from a number in the media/entertainment business, your product has to be better than a few years back, when people had fewer choices. Concentrate more on making great movies, and less on spinning convenient excuses when you slip.

As a leader, one of the best actions you can take is to ensure that people accept what has happened. No amount of whining about unfairness or grumbling about how the change should not have happened will affect anything going forward. Don’t disrespect their feelings about it, but also don’t let them languish in self-pity or denial. And, do help them process the impact, and determine some meaningful action they can take. 

This interaction is often one of those tough conversations you hear so much about. But helping people move forward after being dealt a big changing curve ball, will actually give them a feeling of more control about their future. And that can be very reassuring and energizing.

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