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The Secret to Navigating Change

The Secret to Navigating Change

I had a real “A-HA” moment this week at the gym. For some reason…right from the first few seconds of my plank I could tell that my energy level was good….I felt light…strong and I just knew I was going to accomplish a personal best (5 min 47 secs – BAM). This is in stark contrast to what happened last week where I felt like I had cement blocks strapped to by body and each second was an eternity. For some reason I came to the conclusion that I was feeling inspired and “lifted” for the first time in a while. The “A-HA” moment was that I had underestimated the impact that my thoughts and feelings had on my overall energy levels. While I knew that intellectually – I actually experienced it and I was aware of it! I bet if I went back through the last year of working out that there is a direct correlation to how easy or hard it was based on my overall emotional state. Hits home hard that as leaders…that if we don’t understand how we are feeling or deal with the “here and now” it results in a physical drain to our ability to be energized for our teams (& for our family).

So…why does this come to top of mind this week? I’m glad you asked! We are going through some change in our household as our oldest daughter headed off to the United Kingdom this week so study abroad at the University of Sussex in Brighton. We are all thrilled about this opportunity and journey ahead for her but no matter who you are…if you initiate the change or if change is thrust upon you…we all go through the change curve. It’s not a matter of “IF”….it’s a matter of “How Fast" YOU get yourself through it. We all fight it and think it won’t happen to US – but the sooner you admit it…recognize it…how you are feeling about it…the sooner you will be on the other side and moving forward….ready to move through it next time.  It’s a constant cycle…we are never immune!

There are many versions of the Transition Curve – but this is my favorite and has been in my toolkit for a long time! 


Here are a couple of questions for you…

1)     Even though you may not think you are going through change right now….reflect on what’s happening in your career or personal life and see if you can connect the dots to have you have been feeling and reacting to things. Is there change happening that you haven’t owned up to?

2)     Now that you have identified an area of change…where are YOU on the change curve?

3)     Can you think of 1-2 ways you can start to work your way through the change curve and move forward faster?

As I have taken on new roles or recognized that change is on the horizon – I have tried to be more proactive over the years rather than reactive. I often start off a team building session where I show the team the change curve and open a dialogue about it. You can often learn a lot about others as they share where they are and realize they are not alone in how they have been feeling.

I also have a tradition from my early days as a manager to show the “FISH!” video every year to my team. It is a 15 min video of why Pike’s Fish Market in Seattle is such a great place to work and why their energy is so contagious. The core of the video is that you “have to have fun at work”. The video challenges individuals to realize that “fun” comes from within you and not from anyone else. The four core principals are:

a.       Play

b.      Be There

c.       Make Their Day

d.      Choose Your Attitude.

I have seen the video more times than I can count and I can honestly say I take something away from it every time I watch it. I also hand out a “Pete the Perch” to each teammate as a reminder of the core principals. What is most rewarding as I have done this over the years is that there are always a few people who are skeptical, jaded and think it is kinda stupid. They feel this is just something “leaders” show their teams and that there is no correlation to the “real world”. When they finally “get it” it makes the whole process worthwhile.

As an example I had one such teammate a few years ago who was decidedly grumpy and “not having it” when we first did the Change Curve & FISH video. Fast forward to a year later…this same teammate came running into my office, offering to help set up the video player and was excited to see it again…to show the rest of the team. At the end of the video (when I did the debrief) he was the first one jumping in and admitting his attitude the first time he watched it and how much he has changed and appreciated it. He admitted he had come a long way (and he had). He also told the group that he gave away the first “Pete the Perch” I gave him but he had every intention of hanging on to his next one. That this was a symbol of how far he had come and that he felt the fish was a prized possession that he would hang onto from here on in. That was humbling and inspiring!

The conclusion I have come to is that there are a lot of weeks where my feelings will affect my energy levels negatively and I lot where I will benefit positively from things that inspire or humble me. To connect the dots – we need to fully deal with the here and now…to feel it…and move on honestly (not fake it till you make it) because I think that it contributes to taking longer to get your energy back…and our teams need us more than ever right now!

So…what’s the Secret to Navigating Change?   It comes down to these 3 things:

1)      Change is constant (big and small) – the sooner you embrace that thought the better!

2)      It’s not a matter of IF you will go through the Transition Curve…it’s WHENand how fast you get yourself (& others) through it

3)      Taking proactive steps to admit that how you are feeling impacts your energy levels and those around you will ultimately help you through the change faster. Don’t ignore it in yourself or others. Open up a constructive dialogue on how to help each other through it.

Leadership questions of the week for YOU: “What do YOU think of the Change Curve?” “Do you have another version that you use that you like better?” “Can you think of ways you can leverage the change curve to open a dialogue with others who may benefit from knowing that it’s natural for change to be hard and that it’s not a matter of IF” it’s a matter of how fast you get through it?” “Can you think of a time recently where your emotions or feelings had a material impact on your energy levels?” “”If so…what do you think the impact was to those around you?” “What has inspired or lifted you and how can you channel those moments more to not only lift yourself but to lift those around you…and thus your energy levels?” “Which one of the 4 FISH principals resonates most with you?” “How important is it that these principals be driven from within or can we make other people care about them if they don’t truly want to?” “Do you believe that if people are having fun (appropriate fun) at work that extraordinary results can happen?”

Thanks for reading….and remember…YOU make a difference!

Please continue the conversation by liking…commenting or sharing this article. You can also follow me on twitter @marciedwhite



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