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Six Strategies to Improve Your Change Agility

We are clearly in turbulent times. There is global unrest and strife. The economy is uncertain. Jobs are changing faster than our skills. There is another restructuring at work. AI is (and will continue) to reshape how we work and live – in ways known and unknown. I could go on, but do I really need to? We all live it, every day.

Many of us, though, hold on to this false hope: that things will “get better” or “slow down” or “we’ll get to the other side.” I hate to burst your bubble, but I don’t think so. As such, here’s the thing that we all need to acknowledge:

Turbulent times are here to stay.

Just as the rocking waves on the ocean are NOT going to magically disappear on an ocean voyage, we are going to continue to be buffeted by changes. Some driven by technology. Some by global events. Some of our own making.

And just like good sailors, we need to get our sea legs under us. Sailors don’t steady the boat; they learn to maintain their balance on a surface that is in continual motion. They get their “sea legs”.

Change has always been continual.

What has changed is the amount and speed.

As such, acquiring the skills to navigate unrelenting change is imperative.

We don’t have to like change or even become an agent of change. Yet, each of us needs to develop coping strategies that help us get and keep our sea legs under us.

Here are six strategies that will help:

1. Stay grounded in your Inner Core.

Working from your inner core is a cornerstone concept in our Evergreen approach. (You can read more deeply in this blog post in Chapter 1 of The Leader’s Guide to Turbulent Times.)

The short version is that finding those things that DON’T change can ground us when many other things are changing. For sailors, it is the horizon. Athletes develop a strong muscular core that allows for both strength and flexibility. In this context, it means getting grounded internally and translating that into our external actions.

The center of your inner core is your values. These are your internal GPS system. Even in the most turbulent times, they provide direction.

The next layer is your strengths. Finding ways to use your strengths means you’ll have much more success, be more productive, and have greater satisfaction.

Finally, lean into your passions. They provide energy.

A quick personal example: One of my values is learning, my strength is synthesizing complex concepts into practical and actionable information, and I am passionate about helping others. And so, I’ve been studying AI (instead of fretting about it). Yet to come is synthesizing what I’ve learned, but when I do, I’ll share it with others through my writing and workshops.

2. Establish a growth mindset.

I’ve found that we all profess to want growth; we just don’t like the growing process. Growing means stepping out of the comfortable and into the unknown. It requires us to be “less than perfect.” It challenges our preconceived ideas and makes our heads (and at times our hearts) hurt.

Yet, time and time again, I see that a shift happens when I approach a situation that is changing with curiosity rather than fear. I’m more open. I see more possibilities. I learn faster and find ways to move through the change more easily.

That’s not to say that growing is easy; but it is a recognition that it is necessary. And that I can either accept and step into it – or resist. Both require energy – and the more I choose to put my energy forward-facing than backward-looking, the better.

3. See failure as part of the process.

In our culture, we celebrate winners – victory – accomplishments. Failure is tainted by a perception of losing or not having enough smarts, stamina, or grit to achieve.

By failure, I’m not referring to failing to try. Or to being complacent with the status quo. I explain more in this blog.

I am talking about recognizing that change requires us to do things differently. To acquire new skills. To think about things in a new light. And we don’t make those leaps without missteps.

The perfect metaphor is a baby taking its first steps. They totter. They fall. And we pick them up and encourage them to try again. And again. And again. We know that success in walking requires repeated failed attempts.

Give yourself the same grace as things are changing. Try. Fail. Learn. And try again. Repeat. Over time this new thing will become your new normal.

4. Mind your physical and mental health.

Change requires physical and mental energy. Lots of it.

Yet we know that when we neglect our physical and mental health, we operate at sub-optimal levels. We make poorer decisions. It’s harder to learn. We diminish our productivity. We get frazzled, and that impacts our valued relationships. We look to external sources, like alcohol or caffeine, to pull us through. All of which ultimately set us up for failure.

So, set yourself up for success. Take breaks. Sleep. Eat well. Exercise.

No time? Perhaps that is the first change you should make!

5. Reflect to learn.

This is a vital shift that happens when you become more change agile. You shift from:

I’ve done this before and know how to do it

To

I’ve not done this before, and I trust I can figure it out.

Yet figuring it out requires you to learn – and to learn on the fly.

There is a key skill that change agile people know: Trial and error is an ineffective way to learn. Change agility requires that you try. It understands that you will make errors (remember – it’s part of the process).

However, one more step is critical in effective and quick learning: Reflect! (here’s more on reflection and resilience)

When you reflect and review your situation, actions, and outcomes, you begin to discern what works and what doesn’t. I recall a time I was learning to put wonder board down for a floor tiling project. I tried and failed. Again and again. I got marginally better but was still rather pathetic. Then, my son-in-law came and gave me a few tips. Voila! My efficiency improved by 1000% (or so it seemed).

If you can find a guide, manual, teacher, or instructions – swallow your pride and use them! If not, take the time to look at your efforts as “experiments”. Try and observe what you did and what the outcomes were. Adjust and repeat. Over time, you’ll find those moments spent being intentional about reflection speed up your learning curve, build confidence, and instill a habit of reflection that serves you well in all new situations.

As with minding your health, the time to reflect may seem like a luxury. I would suggest otherwise. You can invest 10 minutes in reflection and greatly improve your next attempt – or save those ten minutes and keep repeating the same actions and expecting different results. And you do know that is said about that!

6. Have a support system.

My hope is that you have a great support system outside of work. My greater hope is that you have an equally great support system inside work.

In times of high-velocity change, having a team that is a safe harbour is vital. These are teams that support each other, that share the load, that are safe spaces to share, to experiment, to try. The current buzzword is “psychological safety” – and I think that is spot on. (a HBR article)

I’m wise enough to know that not everyone has the support they would like at work. I’m also wise enough to know:

  • As a leader, you can learn to create these psychologically safe teams – and that all kinds of good things happen (people stay, they are productive, they are innovative)
  • As an individual, you can reach out to one or two “safe” people in your workplace and create a safe community.

These are six pretty big actions –I know that is a lot. And so, reflect on the one most important to you as you strive to become more change-agile. These questions will help you:

1. Can I articulate my core values, my strengths, and my passions?   

      a. If not, when can I make some time to get them on paper?

      b. If so, how well am I living into them? What might I adjust to live into them more fully?

2. Where do I want to grow? How might I be more intentional about acquiring a new skill or mindset?

3. How comfortable I am with failing as part of the process of growing and learning? What might I do to stretch my comfort zone just a bit?

4. How is my overall mental and physical health? Is there one thing I might attend to that will yield good results?

5. Do I build time for daily reflection? Might I find 10 minutes at the end of each day to reflect?

6. How strong is my support system, both inside and outside of work? What one positive relationship might I nurture or strengthen?

I also know that we are all enhanced when others share their wisdom. Please weigh in and share any strategies that enable you to be more change-agile!

Reach out to me if you want to develop more change-agile teams or leaders in your organization!

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Evergreen Leadership