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Change Sucks - Until it Doesn’t!

Updated: Apr 22, 2020

Strategies to overcome those change doldrums and maximize your productivity during epic change.

Leadership is all about change. Most leaders thrive on change. When implemented thoughtfully and properly, change can lead to increased productivity and better results. After all, Albert Einstein said that the very definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

One of my favorite shows to watch on HGTV is Love it or List it. My wife and I were channel surfing late one night and happened upon an episode we both had seen at least half a dozen times… when I stopped surfing and put down the remote, my wife asked me why I stopped - and I said maybe this time they’ll choose to “list it”, rather than “love it”. We both had a good laugh.

In spite of the fact that change can lead to better things, most people do not like change and some are downright resistant to it. But why is that? Change upsets the status quo. Change means that we have to learn new ways of doing things or that the comfort of yesterday is lost forever. Change makes us feel out of control - and whether you’re a control freak or not, everyone likes to feel in control.

In fact, even when a proposed change seems intuitively better, we say things like “well, it’s better to stick with the devil you know than go to the devil you don’t know.” Or - “that’s not the way we’ve always done things.” We are, after all, creatures of habit.

Routines because automatic - like when you drive to your office, and yet you can’t remember how you got there. If you’ve been following the same route for weeks, months, or years - and then suddenly one morning you are forced to take a detour because of construction or an accident - chances are, you’ll remember that drive and complain about it for a long time. You see, that change jolts us out of our unconscious routines into complete consciousness. Now we have to think.

How we deal with change determines how fast we can get beyond the initial shock and move to the promised land of better and faster. Almost universally, change drives people into what I like to call the valley of despair.

Upon first learning of the change, we start with shock. “Why are we doing this?”

Typically pretty quickly that shock morphs into denial - “This isn’t really happening… is it?”

When it starts to sink in, we move into the “frustration” downhill slide toward the bottom of the valley - “This is just stupid” or “this is never going to work.”

During the downhill slide, others around us are feeding the same feelings until finally, we reach the very bottom of the valley - depression. “I can’t do this.” We long to return to the old ways, or fantasize about leaving - “I’ll show them - this place will fall apart without me - I’ll go get another job and then when will they do?”

Once we get all that out of our system and just when we think we’re at the end of our rope - we have the first breakthrough using the new change. “Hmmm… that worked.” So, we start to experiment by dabbling a little with the change. These are the first steps up the other side of the valley!

Pretty soon, we start getting some “wins” and - oh my goodness - “I’m not sure I want anyone to know this, but this is working better than the old way… huh.” It’s the light at the end of the tunnel...

So we make a commitment to the new change - and pretty soon we emerge completely from the valley of despair - better, faster, and more efficient than ever. The change is now fully integrated - perhaps not exactly how it was envisioned by the one who implemented it - but the results are starting to show.

The valley of despair is a real place. Everyone goes through it. Even leaders who love change.

One of my mentors used to say, it’s ok to visit the valley of despair, just don’t build a condo. The faster we can move through the valley, the faster we can achieve more. The speed which you move through the valley has everything to do with attitude. A great attitude, even in the face of sudden and dramatic change, can get you through the valley quickly and on to greater productivity.

So, let me ask you… what about this current situation - COVID-19 has heaped a bunch of change on all of us at once.

At the very least - depending on where you live in the country (or the world) - you’re having to learn the art of social distancing. Many of us live in areas that are not under “shelter in place” orders - where we can only leave our homes for absolute necessities.

Whether you agree or disagree with the orders for your area - I think we can all agree that the sooner this is over the better.

So, how are you dealing with this situation? Are you having to learn to work or go to school or teach from home now? How are you handling it?

Are you, “Why are we doing this?”

Or, “This isn’t really happening, is it?”

Or perhaps, “I can’t do this?”

Remember the faster you get beyond these feelings the faster you can climb up on the other side of the valley toward a new, more efficient, reality.

For me - when it first happened, I didn’t like it. In fact, I am sad to tell you that I was a bit of a denier at the beginning.

My family was skiing in Taos, New Mexico when COVID-19 started really impacting our lives in the US. That weekend was some of the best skiing we’d ever had at Taos, our favorite place to ski, because we got nearly 17 inches of fresh powder on the first day. It was glorious! Two days later, the resort, along with nearly all of the ski resorts in America, closed for the season.

My daughter got a text from her best friend who told her that we might want to pick up some toilet paper on the way home. Wait, what? Toilet paper? Don’t we make toilet paper right here in the US? So as we started our journey back to Dallas at 5am on Monday morning, I resolved to stop in one of the tiny towns along the way and pick up a package just to be safe. Our first stop was a Wal-Mart in a tiny town in New Mexico - that’s when it started to sink in that we might be headed for a problem. There was not a roll to be found on the 670 miles between Taos and home.

When we got home late that afternoon, and because we’d been gone for several days, I decided to run over to the grocery store to get some food for dinner. The place was busier than the day before Thanksgiving - and I was shocked to see how many completely empty shelves there were. I mean - even the capers were gone. Wow.

By the end of that first week - I was in full frustration - heading fast for depression.

Monday of the 2nd week - I started to think of ways to keep working through this. I rescheduled most of my upcoming meetings to video conference calls. I started to realize how much more efficient that was than driving from face-to-face meetings at client offices, coffee shops or over lunch.

By the end of that day, I’d made up my mind that this is a GREAT time to work on my list of things I wanted to do, but never seemed to find the time for. Starting my blog and podcast, for example, which has been on my To Do list for a year and a half. This is a great opportunity for me to be strategic and work ON my business, rather than IN my business. Basically, I decided to get my head out of my backside and get to work.

The result three weeks later? I’m WAY more efficient. I can meet more people more quickly. I’m using technology to create a better, more efficient way to work. And have a better life. Sure, it takes some getting used to from the old ways, and I’ve had a steep learning curve to get here, but I’m getting more done every day that I could in most weeks.

Don’t get me wrong - just like you, I can’t wait to go back to my favorite craft breweries and restaurants soon. However, I like these new efficiencies so much, I’m going to implement some of these changes permanently. Who would have thought back when the “change” was thrust upon us?

So, my question to you is - How are you using this time? Are you using it to be strategic, or are you still lamenting about the “good old days” of just a few weeks ago?

I challenge you to embrace this - and indeed all change and run headfirst into the valley and start the march up the other side quickly! Like me, I bet you’ll be amazed at the results!

Stop right now, and write down the 3 most important things you’ve been wanting to do but could not find the time.

Message me on LinkedIn or on our FaceBook Page or email me or call my cell and tell me HOW you are going to embrace this opportunity to work ON your business. What are you going to do today - to Maximize Business Value.

And remember, we’re here to help. Feel free to download our ebook “Things you need to think about to Improve the Value of your Business.” It’s free, and if you want to get on our mailing list (we promise not to spam), sign up right on the website. And if we can help you in any way don’t hesitate to reach out!


Check out Tom's podcast on the same topic.

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