What to do when you are blindsided by change - Michelle Gibbings

You don’t see it coming. The new boss; your role being made redundant; your project being cancelled; a major workplace change; or some other form of change that is unexpected.

Change can be hard, and it’s even harder when you feel blindsided by it. You are going along quite happy and contented and aren’t expecting the equilibrium to be toppled.

Harvard Professor, Rosabeth Moss Kanter said: “Change is disturbing when it is done to us, exhilarating when it is done by us”.

When you’ve decided to change you feel in control. You have choice and autonomy as to when and what to do and that makes it far easier to process and manage. In contrast, when the change feels imposed upon you, it feels more stressful as a level of control is now missing.

The good news is there are always actions you can take. So when unexpected change comes along, here are five things you can do:

1. Embrace the uncertainty
It’s the perfect time to embrace the uncertainty you are feeling and to seek counsel and input from others.

Author, Deepak Chopra said: “When we experience uncertainty, we’re on the right path, and it’s the fertile ground of pure creativity and freedom”.

Use the uncertainty to propel you forward and to seek out new ideas and input from different people. Be naturally curious about the issue and what you can seek out as the solution. Approach the uncertainty as a challenge to solve, not as a barrier to progress.

2. Flip the perspective
Many people think that change is beyond their control. It’s time to challenge that notion.

Whilst the decision to make a change may not be under your control (for example because it has been made by senior management), how you react to that change and how you plan for the change is within your control.

There’s nothing wrong with expressing sadness or disappointment with respect to a change. These are healthy, natural emotions. However, it’s important to find a way to help steer your emotions forward positively and progressively.

The first step is to plan and think about the change. This is about steering your own course by planning and working through what the change may mean for you and therefore what you want to do about it. You can map out a series of approaches, with the benefits and dis-benefits of each of these options. Consider how you can apply these options and make a decision as to what course you will take.

When you know you have options, you will feel more in control.

3. Get involved
At the same time, don’t sit back and wait for the change. Instead, become active with it.

For example, often with change programs there are ways to get involved. Look for those ways and actively participate. For example, be the person that volunteers to be part of the change initiative’s change network, or the person that volunteers to be involved in the pilot program.

That way, you will be ahead of the curve and you’ll have first-hand knowledge of the change and what it could mean. You’ll also get the opportunity to try new things and new ways of behaving.

4. Channel your energy
Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan in their book “Execution: The discipline of getting things done” write about the fact that “We don’t think ourselves into a new way of acting, we act ourselves into a new way of thinking”.

This is important because to be change ready you need to be willing to do things differently. You need to embrace self-mobilisation – where you are planned and active.

In doing this, focus your energy on the things that you can influence or control. It can be very easy to ruminate and waste energy and effort on those things (and people) that are outside your influence. I’ve written about this before in my article – Are you making change work for you?

5. Take care of you
Make sure you are taking time to take care of yourself and those around you. It is at times such as this that stress levels can feel unmanageable, giving rise to anxiety and associated health issues. Be wary of this and alert to the warning signs.

Meditate. Get enough sleep. Exercise. Eat well.

This isn’t time to reach for comfort foods, alcohol and other devices that can feel good in the short term, but have no pay off in the long term.

While you may not know the change is coming; at least now you will be ready when it does.

Getting you ready for tomorrow, today®.

Michelle Gibbings is a change leadership and career expert and founder of Change Meridian.  Michelle works with global leaders and teams to help them get fit for the future of work. She is the Author of ‘Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work’ and ‘Career Leap: How to Reinvent and Liberate Your Career’. For more information: www.michellegibbings.com or contact michelle@michellegibbings.com.

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