Powerful Practices to Help You Adapt to Change: Part 2

It’s clear that a strong ability to adapt to unexpected change is a must for every individual and organization. We’ve found four powerful practices that can help people as well as companies become more change-adaptive. I wrote about the first two practices—Mindfulness and Curiosity—in my last blog post. Today, I’ll cover the third and fourth: Courage and Resilience.

The Third Powerful Practice: Courage

When faced with monumental change, responding with courage doesn’t mean you will instantly feel confident and in control of what’s happening. You probably won’t say, “I’m just going to power through this change even though I don’t have a clue about what’s going on.” No, this kind of courage is about having the strength to speak up for yourself in the face of uncertainty.

It requires courage to speak up and share your ideas and concerns about a proposed change. It also takes courage to be open to others’ perspectives and rationale for change. People who are courageous stand up for themselves and take action that helps them feel more optimistic, more included, and less victimized by change.

Consider speaking up:

  • If you believe you know things the change leaders don’t know
  • If you are aware of obstacles that could derail the change
  • If you think your ideas might make the change better
  • If you have experience or expertise to share

Don’t forget that you also demonstrate courage when you ask for what you need. Everyone needs some support during a change—and asking for support, reassurance, or mentoring takes courage. Take a moment to pause and reflect: “What do I need to be able to adapt to this change?” “Who should I ask to help me?” and “How should I go about asking for support?” 

Thinking of yourself as courageous can give you options and energy to act, not just react. It can help you feel as if the change is happening with you, not to you. And that’s a great position of strength.

The Fourth Powerful Practice: Resilience

If 2020 didn’t teach us resilience, nothing will! People who are resilient in the face of change are able to handle some discomfort and to demonstrate resolve in seeing things through. Change-adaptive people who are resilient are confident in their ability to adapt to change. They are able to bounce back and stay the course. They believe when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

People with resilience know their strengths and they lean on those things. When you’re experiencing a change, remind yourself of the ways you are really strong. What do you bring to the table? Now look at the people around you. What do you know about their strengths that you can remind them of?

Resilient people typically focus their energy on what they can control and let go of what they can’t control. For example, I don’t watch the news very often. I keep up enough to stay informed, but most of it focuses on things I don’t have any control over. I am more resilient when I can stay focused on things I can control.

Finally, don’t forget the famous phrase: This too shall pass. Time goes by and softens the hard times we go through. Before we know it, months or years have passed and when we look back, that problem is over, we figured out a way to solve it, or maybe we just got through it together.

So choose to be a change-adaptive person who practices mindfulness, demonstrates curiosity, speaks up with courage, and follows through with resilience.

  • Mindfulness: Acknowledge and regulate your emotions.
  • Curiosity: Seek information and look for opportunities to help you move toward the change.
  • Courage: Share your concerns, contribute your ideas, and ask for the support you need.
  • Resilience: Acknowledge your strengths and focus your energy on things you can control.

Change is a fact of life. The more change-adaptive we are in these four areas, the better we will be able to deal with each change that comes our way.

Powerful Practices to Help You Adapt to Change: Part 1

If the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that change pushes us out of our comfort zone. When the change is significant it can disrupt our peace of mind, making us defensive, close-minded, and anxious.

To thrive in an increasingly unpredictable world, we need to develop better responses to change and perhaps even learn to embrace it. Over the next couple of blogs, I’ll be focusing on four powerful practices that can help you adapt to change.

The First Powerful Practice: Mindfulness

We hear a lot about mindfulness these days. But what is it, exactly?

Mindfulness is making the choice to slow down and notice what you’re thinking and feeling—without judging your thoughts and feelings.

For example, suppose you’ve received news that your company is going to be reorganized and your department is going to be merged with another. For many people, this would trigger a negative feeling like fear or anxiety. It also might trigger some negative self-talk, such as, “Oh no, my job will probably be eliminated.” Notice that in this example, you have a negative feeling (fear/anxiety) followed by a negative judgment (“I’m going to lose my job.”) That’s a double negative!

A mindful approach to hearing about this change would be to pause, take a deep breath, and observe your feelings and thoughts.  Your self-talk might go something like this: “Oh look, I’m feeling fearful and anxious right now. Isn’t that interesting?”  You might notice the thought about losing your job, but you would recognize it as just that—a thought, not reality. You would not attach meaning to it. You would simply witness, rather than judge, these feelings and thoughts.

So, how does this witnessing consciousness help you deal with change? By becoming more aware of what is taking place—both inside and outside of yourself—you can respond to uncertainty with acceptance. Once you acknowledge and accept what is, you will be able to reframe your reaction to the change (“This could be an exciting opportunity”) and adapt more successfully to shifting conditions.

To get out of a reactive state and get into a state of mindfulness, take these steps:

  • Feel your feet on the ground or rub the palms of your hands together. The idea here is to bring you out of your feelings and thoughts and back into your body.
  • Close your eyes and take a deep breath, inhaling to the count of three (1, 2, 3).
  • Slowly exhale for twice as long, to the count of six (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).
  • Repeat the inhalation/exhalation two more times.

You don’t need to be a yogi to practice mindfulness. For example, my granddaughter, Hannah, teaches music. She recently used the steps above to get a classroom of rowdy, eighth-grade boys to settle into learning and it worked like a charm. If eighth grade boys can become mindful, anybody can!

The Second Powerful Practice: Curiosity

Change takes us into unfamiliar territory, and not knowing increases our anxiety. What can you do to survive and thrive when you’re faced with the unknown? Research tells us that curiosity plays a fundamental role in successfully adapting to change.  In this context, here’s what we mean by curiosity:

Curiosity is a desire to seek information about a change to better understand it, reduce the fear of the unknown, and look for the opportunities it brings.

To stimulate your curiosity, start by asking: “What am I feeling? What am I thinking?” so you can make a choice about what you’re going to do instead of simply reacting to the change. Notice when you’re digging your heels in and thinking, “That’s it. This is horrible.” Take this opportunity to be curious and open-minded by asking, “Hmm, I wonder what’s possible now?

Cultivate curiosity about the change itself. Who is it affecting? What, exactly, is happening? When is it happening? Where is it happening? Gaining knowledge about a subject can often make it less daunting.

Get curious about solutions and positive responses. Who can help you and others with the change? What can you do to help? How might you think about this situation differently?

The story of hotel executive André van Hall is an uplifting example of how one man harnessed the power of curiosity to adapt to a frightening change. In 2011, André began to lose sight in one eye. Over the next several years, his condition progressed to near-total blindness. Rather than reacting by saying, “That’s it. My life is over,” André cultivated curiosity about his condition and began to ask questions. “How will I function as a blind man?” he wondered. “How will I get to work without driving a car? For that matter, how will I get my work done?”

André reached out for resources and advice. He discovered and embraced speech-based computer technology. He and his wife moved to Denver, so he could easily access Denver’s urban transportation system. He learned how to use a cane. He researched organizations that offer guide dogs and was matched with his beloved guide dog, Pelham. André—who now calls himself a Professional Speaker and Curiosity Instigator, sums it up this way: “Instead of simply continuing with life, my curiosity pushed me to flourish!”

By practicing mindfulness and curiosity, you can adapt to whatever changes life throws your way. Keep your eye on this space for Part 2 of this blog series, when I’ll discuss the other two powerful practices for adapting to change: courage and resilience.

Every Ending Is a Brand-New Beginning

As 2019 comes to a close, I’m taking some time to reflect on the significant events of the past year and to anticipate the exciting things yet to come.

This is a long-standing tradition of mine and perhaps of yours, too. At the end of each year, Margie and I write a letter to all our friends, wishing them a happy holiday and catching them up on what’s been going on in our lives over the past 12 months. We’ve been doing this since shortly after we got married in 1962, the year Margie graduated from Cornell. That’s more than 57 years!

Together, all of these letters tell the story of our lives over the past half-century. What’s amazing is that by looking back, we can see how problems that once seemed insurmountable were the necessary conditions for wonderful new developments. A few choice examples spring to mind:

1967

This was the year I earned my PhD in education from Cornell. I had anticipated finding a position as a dean of students. Even though I had great interviews with several universities, none of them hired me. This was a blow to my ego and sure looked like an unhappy ending. But I ended up taking a position as the assistant to the dean at Ohio University, which was an important new beginning. At Ohio University I met Paul Hersey. Paul liked my writing and asked me to coauthor a book with him. That led to our development of Situational Leadership® and my career as an author and leadership expert.

 

2007

Fast-forward 40 years to the year a raging wildfire burned our house to the ground. What had every appearance of being a tragic ending was in fact an inspiring new beginning. Margie and I moved up the street into an even better house, this one with a view of the hills to the west. Now we never get tired of watching breathtaking sunsets from our back patio.

 

2019

This year one of our company’s superstars, Howard Farfel, is ending his 18-year career with Blanchard, seven of those years as president. I have real mixed feelings about Howard stepping down. I don’t know a nicer human being or finer gentleman than Howard. He’s had a powerfully positive impact on our company, and his smile and sense of humor will be sorely missed. But this ending marks a thrilling new beginning: My son, Scott Blanchard, will be taking leadership as Blanchard’s new president. As anyone who’s heard Scott speak knows, his love and passion for our company and the work we do is second to nobody’s.

I’m excited about 2020 and I hope you are, too. Before the new year, take a few moments to reflect on the things you’re leaving behind in 2019. Even if some of those things make you sad, remember that what looks like a finality isn’t really the end—it’s the beginning of something brand new.

 

Coach Calipari: A Winner and a Servant Leader

The world is in a desperate need of a different leadership role model. Everyone has seen the effects of self-serving leaders in every aspect of our society. What we need today are leaders who are servant leaders.

When people hear the phrase servant leadership, they are often confused. They immediately conjure up thoughts of the inmates running the prison, or trying to please everyone. Others think servant leadership is only for church leaders. The problem is that they don’t understand leadership. They think you can’t lead and serve at the same time. From my experience, not only is it possible, it’s the only way over the long run to get great performance and human satisfaction. To prove my point, I’m always looking for good servant leader examples. Continue reading

How Do You Replace A Key Manager?

The first thing you need to decide when you lose a key manager is whether you need to hire a “winner” or a “potential winner” to replace this person.  Winners are individuals who have demonstrated that they can do the exact job you need done.  They are hard to find and they cost money, but they are relatively easy to supervise.  All they need to know is what the goals are.

If the last manager was a winner and you worked well with that person, you might need to search extensively to get the same type of individual.  If you can’t afford or don’t think you can find—or take the time to find—a winner, your next alternative is to hire a potential winner.  Potential winners are individuals who have promise, but have not demonstrated the ability do the specific job you need done.  They are less expensive to hire but they require time and training to develop the skills for the job at hand.  Do you have that kind of time?  Can you afford to train someone to take the last person’s place?

As you interview an individual, how do you tell whether you have a winner?  Let me suggest a process you might use.  When you interview job applicants, attempt to find out as much about them and their background as you can.  As they explain their past, probe with appropriate questions along the way to learn how they have arrived at their current position in life. After you get a sense of the person’s personal and professional background, share with him or her the key responsibility areas in the position you have open.  Be as detailed as you can regarding your concerns and expectations. This process will give you an initial sense of the quality of person you are dealing with.

After this phase of interviewing, you will be able to narrow down the field to the best potential candidates for the job.

During the second interview, give the person a pad and pencil and have him or her prepare a strategy to follow if he or she were to get the job—that is, what would be done first, followed by what would be done within the next three, six and nine months.  Give the applicant an hour to complete this task. Tell him or her that you will want to read the prepared statement as well as listen to an oral presentation.  This will give you not only a sense of the person’s ability to think and plan, but it will also indicate his or her level of initiative, organization, and creativity as well as ability to communicate and present ideas verbally and in writing.

After you have heard the presentation, talk about it. Ask what kind of supervision he or she would need from you in each of the key responsibility areas of the position: Close supervision (known in Situational Leadership® II as a Directing leadership style); both direction and support along with participation in decision making (a Coaching leadership style); support, encouragement and listening (a Supporting leadership style); or could you leave the person alone with minimal supervision (a Delegating leadership style)?

Suggest that the amount of direction the person will need will depend on his or her level of competence in the areas of responsibility, and that the amount of support and involvement you will provide will depend on his or her level of confidence in performing each task or goal.  For example, for you to effectively use a Delegating leadership style, the person would need to be highly competent and confident at the task at hand.  Whereas, if the person is an “enthusiastic beginner” (SLII® language), more direction will be needed.  Suggest that the person look at each of the responsibilities separately and be ready to talk with you in terms of what kind of supervision might be necessary.

While your new candidate is working on analyzing his or her own development level and the appropriate leadership style needed to be effectively supervised in each responsibility area, you would do the same in relation to what you have learned about the person. After you each have analyzed appropriate supervisory approaches on various tasks or goals, you would come together and talk about the kind of supervision that person would probably need.

What is fascinating about this exercise is that you are essentially contracting for a leadership style with the person before he or she has been hired.  This way, you can find out whether this person is a winner who can be generally supervised or a potential winner who will require a greater degree of direct supervision and control.

Hiring a replacement for a key position is not a simple task—it’s something that must be done with great care.  The ideas I’ve presented here have helped me many times to make the best hiring decision—I hope they help you, too!