I always thought I was good with change – I adapt easily and I’ve thrived in a job where every day looks different. Turns out, I’m terrible at change.
The 40 weeks a woman spends being pregnant doesn’t prepare her for the actual change that happens when you go from being two adults in control of their lives to two adults at the beck and call of one tiny human. In a moment, everything is different, and you have no idea what to do or how to cope.
The beginning is a blur of learning – how to feed, clothe, and change a squirmy, red-faced, eight-pound human who feels so fragile and so strong all at once. It’s also a struggle with balance – snuggling for just a few more minutes because you don’t quite want to let go, yet knowing you really should go eat something and take care of yourself.
You figure it out and stumble your way through because you have to – you have this immense responsibility with this little human relying on you. Then, you start to get your bearings as the repetitive tasks yield lessons, such as learning to get the wipe ready to shield yourself before opening your son’s diaper.
I didn’t realize how resistant I was to change until I realized I missed my old life.
“Wait. I can’t go to the gym right now?”
Nope. I can’t just go out to dinner or even quickly run out to do an errand like I used to. I want freedom, but I have this baby who I also want to be with. The anxiety and dread are overwhelming as you have to reintegrate into society as this “new you.” You can’t be a hermit forever, either.
For five years, I’ve helped companies manage their change. My son is four months old and it’s only now that I realize I knew nothing about change before him.
What do I know about change now?
1. Change is emotional – and it’s based in fear.
I’ve always said that change is emotional but I never really felt it until now. The anxiety and deep, deep fear caused by change are real.
Fear is a killer of change in your organization. Some people are so set in their ways that they don’t even realize how fearful they are of change and of their potential failure. For them, the fear of the unknown can be paralyzing.
So, what do we do about it?
2. Support and empathy are crucial.
All parents know it takes a village to raise a child, but non-parents have no idea what the heck that means. It’s the same with organizational change. You don’t really know how much support and empathy are needed and valued until you’re on the other side looking back.
Supporting and empathizing with your employees will help ease the emotional jerkiness of vast organizational change. We say, “Dialogue is the oxygen of change.” What we mean is: talk to people (at every level of your organization). Talk to them about the change happening – what it means to you, what it means to them, and what it means to your organization.
3. Change is constant but transformations are rare.
Organizations and people make small changes all the time.
- “I’m getting a new haircut.”
- “I’m going to try this new place for lunch.”
- “We have a new corporate expense reporting system.”
- “Let’s do a training on cybersecurity.”
These changes are easy and practically risk-free. However, true transformations – where the fundamentals of your organization shift, and people behave differently – happen only after a radical experience. Something cosmic needs to happen to bring the change – something different that engages every person in the change, so they feel that strange mix of awe and pride when they think about what can be.
It’s important to accept that change is a given. It’s a non-negotiable for success and the only way for organizations or people to propel themselves forward. As a new parent, I know that many more changes are coming, but now that I’ve lived through one and have come out on the other side, I feel more prepared than ever to embrace the changes, reach out for support, and be in awe of how much I’ve transformed.