What is your attitude toward change?
How do you handle change?
How can you prepare for change?
What are the benefits of change?
What is the risk involved in changing or in refusing to change?
These are questions we all must address when faced with change in any area of our lives. Let’s admit it – change is inevitable! We can’t stop change from happening! We can determine, of course, how we respond to change and the challenges it brings. Look around you ... what has changed in the past 10 years? Five years? If you are like most people, change is occurring at a dizzying speed in many areas.
Here are some suggestions to help you deal with change as it intrudes on your life.
- Your attitude toward change is important. Writer Arthur Gordon said, “If you can’t change facts, try bending attitudes.” What great advice! If you adopt a positive attitude about change you will be more effective as a leader. Team members will take these positive signals from you and will usually accept change more readily. Instead of having the mindset that there is nothing you can do about change, be positive in your outlook and approach so you are an influence on change.
- Plan how you will handle change. If you have a plan in place to deal with coming change, you will be further along toward turning it into a positive experience than if you wait for change to roll over you. To deal with unexpected change, develop a set of actions that can be put into place at a moment’s notice. In other words, think about change ahead of time and make some basic decisions in advance. Then, when the impending change surfaces, you will have some “filters” in place to help you deal constructively with what is coming.
- Prepare yourself and others to handle change effectively. Part of preparation may be a renewed focus on the purpose/direction of your group or organization. Specialized training might be necessary to deal with the changes. Outdated procedures hamper positive change, so create a training plan that will create enthusiasm and encourage creativity in the face of change.
- Communication can make the difference between success or failure when dealing with change. Team members need to know the “why” of change. They will be very concerned about how the change will affect them. Find several ways to communicate information to insure that everyone understands the impact change will make to the organization and in their individual lives. Rephrase, restate and reiterate!
- Involve as many as possible in the change process. The more individuals involved, the greater the chance of success. If people are invested in change, they will be more likely to accept its outcome and to support actions taken for its implementation. Dictating and demanding do not create an atmosphere of cooperation.
- Approach change in stages. As a leader, you have probably had time to absorb all the implications of the change and are more accepting. It will be necessary to give people time to adjust to the idea of change and what it will mean to their work product and organizational structure.
- Make adjustments as necessary. Even if the change is planned carefully and well thought out, there will always be some necessary adjustments. Allowing time for the final result to surface is an important part of dealing with change. It will be beneficial to gather everyone affected by the change to discuss what fine-tuning should be done. Glitches and minor adjustments will always need to be addressed. Don’t expect everything to run smoothly the first time around!
- Risk change. There will be times when all the planning and communication result in failure. Taking the risk connected with change can be very rewarding, however. Increased productivity, streamline processes or worker cooperation can result in greater financial success and customer service. Both clients and employees (paid or volunteer) are more content and are proud of their efforts to address change creatively.
When facing change from an external source, how would you answer these questions?
- What has changed? What remains unchanged?
- What must be done immediately in order to keep functioning?
- What can wait to allow time for more careful planning?
- Who will be most affected and what help do they need?
- What can I do to make the change more manageable right now?
When change comes from an internal source or is planned, how would you answer these questions?
- Can I outline the expected changes in a clear and orderly way?
- Does each person involved know what will happen?
- As far as is possible, have I consulted those who will be affected and enlisted their support and help?
- Will things be better after the changes or will they just be different? Will it be worth the upheaval?
Change comes in every area of life. Change comes to all of us. How we approach change will determine in large part how successfully change will be implemented. Think about the long-term benefits of change and then plan, prepare and communicate.
For more information, contact Eva De La Rosa, WMU/Women’s Ministries specialist, at 559-229-9533, ext. 256 or e-mail Eva.