Leadership and Change

We all have heard the saying – The only thing constant is change – and yet for so many people change is very difficult. I wonder… is it because we really don’t believe this; because we have a fear of the unknown; because we hate to see a good thing come to an end? When is it we embrace change?

Over the last 18 months, I coached many employees, managers and executives in a very dynamic environment where growth was happening very fast to, unfortunately, where decline rapidly took hold and seemed to spiral out of control. After hiring almost 70 people and watching them enthusiastically take on the launch of a new program, I was several months later laying off all the people I hired plus many more. I witnessed hope, contribution and commitment and then despair, fear and anger.

From the beginning, change was very apparent – new people working together building a team; new processes to be learned and enhanced; new offices being opened and performance being reviewed. Some people thrived on the change and some resisted the changes. It was an amazing time for me to be involved as a coach, a HR manager and an observer. I loved helping employees deal with the new demands; coaching managers to motivate employees and bring clarity to their expectations. Then as the business revenues began to decline just when expenses were increasing, change took on a whole new look – people being laid off; offices closing; programs being shut down and services being eliminated. I also was grateful for helping the employees deal with losing their jobs; coaching managers to make and deal with the results of their tough decisions; and listening as all levels of the organization tried to sort out what the changes meant for them and their families, the company and the clients. Many thanked me for the straightforward approach and compassion I brought to difficult conversations.

In my many roles in business, I have initiated change, been a “victim” of change, and embraced change. For me, I know it is my perspective that drives the how I will handle change. Call it the wisdom of my years (or the hard knocks of experience) but thankfully I no longer am a victim of change. Yes, I may have a few moments of regret, disappointment and even anger reflecting how come, why me, why now… The key for me has been to acknowledge my feelings, giving myself permission to feel bad for whatever I need – 5 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes – and then I move on… looking for “what’s next” with the intention of making all change beneficial.

Being a leader means you will become familiar with all of the aspects of change and how you handle it will begin to define who you are as a leader. So how are you doing in handling change?

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