3 Ways Executives Can Steer Their Companies Through Change
How do you handle change? I recently surveyed 50 senior-level executives to answer this very question. Most agreed they weren’t opposed to shaking up the status quo. In fact, the majority said they valued the positive effects of change, such as interesting challenges (75 percent) and opportunities for growth (68.8 percent).
But about two-thirds said they dislike unanticipated shifts because they create so much uncertainty for both them and their organizations. It makes sense: When change comes out of nowhere, we feel anxious. It’s also when we most need a healthy perspective. Here are three tips for steering your company through change:
1. Anticipate the unexpected.
Throughout life, it’s easy to zero in on whatever’s right in front of us or where we want to be in the future. But when the road shifts underneath us, we often stumble and fall rather than adapt.
To preemptively spot potential changes, ask yourself “What if?” questions. When my husband and I go motorcycling, we often stop to take stock of what we may encounter down the road. We want to know as much as possible about the route ahead so we can anticipate the “what ifs.”
In the context of a business, some examples might include “What if my customers’ needs shift?” “What if technology disrupts our way of doing business?” or “What if a change in leadership above or around me impacts my role?”
2. Tap into your reserve.
My motorcycle’s gas tank is nestled between me and my handlebars. Near the intake straw toward the bottom, the tank narrows, and once the fuel falls below that point, my bike will sputter and die. However, when I turn the petcock valve, I can access gas that’s still in the tank and travel for another 20-30 miles. It acts as my reserve tank.
So it goes when dealing with change. To get through the hardest moments, we need to tap into our reserve tank of strength. To build up your reserve, bolster your emotional capacity, define your sense of purpose, build up your thirst for success, and care for yourself so you have the stamina to face change head-on.
3. Change with the change.
Don’t let change plant a bitter seed in you; rather, let it inform and shape your views on life and leadership. Reflect on your challenges, and know that you did your best. You won’t always be able to control outcomes, but you can control your outlook.
It’s hard to keep your footing when the unexpected wave of change rolls through, but that’s when giving it your all really counts. Once you accept that you don’t have all the answers, you’ll ignite the refiner’s flame that forges character, wisdom, empathy, and resiliency. That’s the kind of leader I want to be after change.
As CEOs, we fear change because we know that once the dust settles, nothing will ever be the same. But change is healthy. If you take the right approach, you can not only brace for it — but also embrace its potential for good.