As this week represents my final week as the CEO of MCG, I felt it most appropriate to talk about change. Change is an interesting word. For some people it represents fear and terror, while for other people it represents adventure and excitement. In my experience as a CEO I have found that more people tend to fear change, rather than embrace it. As I have had the chance to talk with employees about their fears over the years, I have found that the reasons they fear change vary. Some of the reasons that have been shared are:
- Some fear the unknown that change represents, especially when they have a lack of information. Often times if there is no information human nature is to let the monsters in your head start to fill in the gaps with worst case scenarios, which leads to a major increase in a person’s anxiety level.
- Some fear that change will represent a loss of some kind. A loss of a friend, or coworker, or position, or title, or even the fear of losing their own job.
- Some fear that change will force them to leave their comfort zone. We get so used to the routine of the day to day and the sense of security that gives us in our life, that the thought of a change will interrupt that sense of security, and leave us feeling lost and unsure.
- Some fear that change might bring successes that they are not prepared to handle. New found success can bring more responsibility, more stress, and an increase in the expectations others place upon them.
My input to leaders who need to lead an organization through change:
Over the years, as I witnessed the stress that change could cause my employees, I realized that a leader of an organization has a huge responsibility to help mitigate the impact that change will have on employees. I learned that the best way to do that was to communicate, communicate, and then communicate. I think many leaders think they need to have everything figured out before they start communicating with employees. I disagree. I have found that when I laid out exactly what was happening in the organization at any given time, and I laid it out to the entire employee base at the same time (which is critical because if a leader starts telling people one off then rumors will spread like wild fire through the organization and nothing is more damaging than that – it makes people who hear it secondhand wonder why they have been left out of hearing it firsthand and it makes those who heard it first believe that they are more important than others in the organization which leads to divisions in the employee base), and then by telling employees honestly and openly the decisions that I was tasked with making, and by laying out for them the factors that I was trying to consider as I made my decisions, that the employees became my support system in helping me make and implement changes. By giving them the data on everything, even if I didn’t have it all figured out, the employees felt engaged in the process, they understood the end result that I wanted to achieve, and many times they would even offer up suggestions for me to consider as I was trying to make up my mind. I have also learned that it is okay for the leader to admit when they are struggling with a decision and to tell why they are struggling. By being real with employees it builds bonds of trust and shows them that you are no different than they are, and they will respect you more for it. Be honest, be open, be direct, and most of all, be real. That is what great leaders do and that is why they are able to inspire people to follow them wherever the organization needs to go.
My input to employees who are dealing with change in their organization:
Change in life is inevitable. And the best way to feel more comfortable in life is to come to terms with the fact that the only thing certain in life is uncertainty. I was one of those who used to fear change. I grew up in a family where we moved every few years, leaving behind friends and loved ones each time. It was scary to always be the new girl in school, over and over again. The first few times we moved I was devastated. And then it got to the point where I just knew that there was a good chance we would move every few years and there was nothing I could really do about it. And so I sat down and started to make a list of what the positive things that came from moving. Don’t get me wrong, the list of bad things I was feeling at the time would have been massive and made me cry, but I couldn’t focus on that anymore because it wouldn’t change anything, it would only make me sad and depressed. So the only list I could allow myself to make was the list of positive things that could result from moving all the time, including things like the chance to meet new people, the chance to learn a new culture, the chance to make new friends, etc. By making the list of positives that could come from change it helped me to put the sadness and fear behind me and stay focused on the positives ahead. It helped my thoughts to stay focused on the adventure and excitement that change could bring into my life and that gave me hope. And now that I am grown up and can look back at my life, I can definitely say the list of positives that came from moving several times would far outweigh the negatives, by over a mile!
“Life happens. Adapt. Embrace change, and make the most of everything that comes your way.”
Change is such a necessary part of life. We need it to grow. Change forces us to go beyond our comfort zone into unknown territory that we would likely have avoided if left to our own choice. Don’t fear change, welcome it! Change is going to happen, so why not greet it head on with a huge smile on your face and an excitement for what it will teach you. Be happy to see change and be grateful that it will make you grow and evolve into a better, stronger, and wiser person. And, never forget that change is what turns a simple caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly!