When Shift Happens

Strategies for Leading Change

By Stephen Garber

The one constant in life is change. And change is accelerating all around us.

When is the last time you looked at the Yellow Pages? We make free video calls around the world, and many of us remember being rushed off the telephone with, “Hurry, it’s long distance!” And that was for a call to New York from Boston.

What are Enron, Polaroid, Pan Am, Texaco, Blockbuster and Sharper Image doing these days? What’s a pay phone? From websites that remind us “shift happens,” we learn:

• China has the most English speakers in the world.

• The top 25 percent of the smartest students in India outnumber all the students in the United States.

• Sixty-five percent of our current grade-schoolers will have jobs that do not currently exist.

• Half of all American workers have been in their jobs less than five years.

• Ninety percent of the world’s data has been generated in less than the last two years.

At work, we have mergers, acquisitions, downsizing, rightsizing, reorganizations, strategic changes and redesigns of the total operating model. These happen all the time. How is a person to cope?

When shift happens …

1. Do your job brilliantly.

• You still have a job to do.

• It’s what matters most, always.

• Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by fear or gossip.

2. Think “we,” not “me.”

• Be supportive and helpful.

• A thriving organization is the best way to have job security.

• Selfish thinking and behavior lead to inefficiencies and contraction, not expansion.

• We earn a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.

3. Seek to understand. Change has many layers.

• Don’t think you know what it means. No one likely does, in the immediate term.

• Work with your teams and line leaders to determine with whom we can best connect: who might have insight or suggestions.

• Ask our line leaders what they think.

4. Ask how you can help…

• Your line leader.

• Those coming in.

• Those we see struggling.

5. Believe in yourself.

• Self-confidence brings you confidence from others.

• Accept that you cannot control what you cannot control.

• Self-confidence models the attitude that the right things are being done, if not always apparent.

6. Know that what we see is temporary.

Many iterations will come.

• No one can imagine all the unintended consequences or the complexity.

• See 1-5, above.♦

Stephen Garber is director of Third Level Ltd. Contact him at 561.752.5505 or sgarber@thirdlevel.com.

Stephen Garber
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