Monday, March 19, 2012

Career Secret #3: Fall In Love With Change

Are you the kind of person who hates change and thinks life would be better if everyone just left well enough alone?  Do you offer compelling arguments against change at work, acting as the voice of reason among your staff?  Does it seem to you that if organization leaders would just look a little closer, they would understand that different doesn't necessarily mean better?

If the above paragraph describes you, I suggest you reconsider your position.  Because change will happen with or without your consent, and how you deal with that determines whether or not you build the professional life you want.

Igniting your career - moving ahead quickly - requires that you go beyond accepting change and begin leading it.   Think of it this way: you're either going to spend 40 hours a week creating changes that are exciting to you, or 60 hours a week working on someone else's boring idea that brings you no satisfaction at all. 

Which would you rather do?

Yes, I know, I know.

'But I really don't like change.'
'That's just not who I am.'
'No one will listen to me anyway.'
'I don't know where to start.'

Look, no one is born knowing how to pop out one brilliant idea after another.  We all have to work at it.  Fortunately, with a slight shift in focus, you can become skilled at recognizing what is happening in your organization beyond the scope of your current position.  Ask questions, read the company newsletter and always connect your ideas back to the mission statement.  Start small and experience a few quick wins to build your confidence.  Then, the creative juices will begin to flow, and you'll be on your way to becoming a change leader.

Consider these tips to thrive in change:

1)  Carve time out every day just to think.  That's right, schedule 30 minutes of thinking time and protect this as the most important part of your work.  Write down ideas so you'll be ready to present them when the time is right.

2)  Stop complaining about attending meetings and realize that's where all the important work happens.  Most decisions are made there and you want your voice to be heard.  Never, ever skip a face-to-face meeting in order to answer your e-mails.

3)  Tighten your professional boundaries because as you become the 'idea person,' more people will be watching.  Step back and look to your private life to fulfill your emotional needs.

4)  If you have concerns around a proposed change, state them clearly and in the spirit of teamwork.  Include an idea of your own to make the change better.  Now you are both brilliant and collaborative.

5)   Whenever possible, be the first to say, 'yes, we can do that.'

You want to become the optimistic, solution focused person who is known to succeed in all circumstances.  This is a powerful position because as you build trust with others, leaders start looking to you for advice, which puts you in control of shaping your environment.

Unforeseen Challenge:  As your career transforms, so will your relationships with your peers.  You will likely become their boss.   Your task will be to maintain both your objectivity and your close professional connection, which is a tricky balance.  Through my own career progression, some colleagues have pulled away and others have tried to draw me into a personal relationship.  They have offered tickets to exclusive events, free condo stays and private dinner invitations.  I express a warm thank you for the kind gesture and also let them know - right up front - that I prefer to stay objective with my colleagues so that I can view everyone fairly.  If your career is on the rise, the same is true for you.  Accepting personal gifts, favors or invitations will cloud your judgement and, therefore, limit your effectiveness.  Your ability to clearly assess any work situation, and take appropriate action, is essential to your professional growth. 

Loving and leading change presents all sorts of experiences for your development.  Embrace a work life that is constantly evolving and your career will ignite right before your eyes.

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