Are you good at handling change? Or do you prefer to hide under the covers hoping change will leave you alone?
In one of my favorite movies, The Shawshank Redemption, one prisoner takes a knife to a fellow inmate’s throat, hoping that committing another crime will extend his decades-long tenure behind bars rather than force him into a world that has completely changed around him. He leaves the guy unharmed and is set free, but after several weeks of feeling completely out of place on the outside, ends up hanging himself.
Dealing effectively with change is something we should all strive to get good at since it will always be around us. “Change is the only constant in life,” says my friend Ariane de Bonvoisin, founder/CEO of FirstThirtyDays.com. Her book The First 30 Days: Your Guide to Any Change and Loving Your Life More teaches people the skills they need to face any change.
I strongly believe that when we know we can handle whatever comes to us, we actually fear the future less. Therefore, adapting well to change, or even better, being able to ignite positive change within ourselves can make us a whole lot happier. But more importantly, being able to ignite positive change in others can make us a whole lot more valuable.
With more than $11 billion spent in the self-improvement industry in the U.S. every year, the promise of change is attractive to individuals. More security, more money, better health are just some of the outcomes people chase, and if you can help them get there, you can be handsomely rewarded. The same is true at the organizational level. Billions of dollars are spent on consulting services and training programs in search of a more secure, more profitable, healthier future for the company.
Even as an employee, there is little long-term reward in holding on to the way things have always been done. You may have been hired to perform a specific process that’s been around for years–a marketing campaign, a financial analysis, or distinct way of selling, for example–but sooner or later, circumstances will force you to evolve the process. Implicitly or explicitly, your employer will expect you to find ways to work faster or with fewer resources, or to bring in more to the bottom line.
You’ll be in greater demand and advance your business or career more rapidly as an agent of change rather than an agent of the status quo. You don’t have change your personal brand, just how you communicate it so it’s clear to those you want to work with that their lives and/or companies will be improved. Here are four ways to do that:
1) Lead with outcomes, not process. As last week’s post illustrated, people are less interested in what you actually do than in how they will benefit. So you have to focus on that first. Only when they feel the outcome is relevant and beneficial to them will they ask questions to understand the process better and what they’ll have to do. Until then, however, they’re not likely to tune in.
2) Be excited about change. People often ask me how to be confident and upbeat at a networking event when they don’t have a job. Somehow they feel embarrassed to tell people they’ve been out of work for months, so they’d rather stay home than have that conversation. My answer instead is to focus on what you’re looking for rather than what you’ve left behind. You don’t have to go into a detailed story about your past and how you were let go. Instead focus directly on the future and say, “I’m looking for a position in health care administration because I really feel I can put my organizational skills to great use there and help a lot of people.”
3) Add change stories to your communications. When writing Smart Networking, I knew I wanted to incorporate real-life networking stories to show how different people have used different relationship-building strategies to come out of their shell and use networking to succeed in their career or business. I thought they were a powerful addition to my own personal stories, as well as the specific step-by-step advice I was giving. You can include your own brief case studies and examples in your written or online materials as appropriate, as well as having them ready to share during face-to-face communications, like networking events and interviews.
4) Explain the cost of not changing. Change can be disruptive and painful. Often people will have to part with some money to buy the book, get the program, or hire the expert. Or they’ll have to change their behavior. So sometimes they may be in denial about their situation and how badly the change is needed. While you don’t have to poke at an open wound, don’t sugar coat reality either. Simply asking a question like, “What are you waiting to have happen before you know you’re ready to take action?” can shake them out of their numbness.
In a fast-paced, competitive world, being adaptable to change and making change happen are skills you can’t afford to do without. They’re also skills you can’t outsource. Change happens, resistance is futile. As Morgan Freeman said in The Shawshank Redemption, “Get busy living, or get busy dying.” The choice is yours.
Liz Lynch is founder of the Center for Networking Excellence and author of Smart Networking: Attract a Following In Person and Online (McGraw-Hill, 2008). She writes, speaks and consults to experienced professionals on how to seamlessly integrate social media and traditional networking to save time and accelerate results.