How High Performers Respond to Change

As you look back on how business has changed over and how people responded, it’s a pretty safe bet to say, the person who didn’t want to create an email address or get a website 20 years ago is probably not a CEO today.

Like it or not, our ability to manage change, both on the giving and receiving end of it, has a huge impact on our career success and our personal happiness. Yet after two (or more) years of seemingly nonstop change, mustering up the energy to ‘pivot’ again can sound like a tall order. Can’t something just go as planned for once?

We’re not in control of every change thrust upon us. From ‘FYI’ email forwards to full-on reorgs, change happens all around us. However, what we do control is our own headspace, which sets the stage for our reaction.

In our research for the LinkedIn Learning course- Learning to be Promotablewe identified high performers have three distinct responses to change, that differentiate them from their lower-performing counterparts.  You can use these yourself, the next time you encounter a change.

Let it marinate.
Instead of reacting in the moment, high performers take time to think.  When you encounter a change, make it a practice to think about it for 24 hours. Make sure you’re not just reacting to your own discomfort. Sometimes a good sleep and a shower will help you better accept changes that aren’t actually that consequential to your life.

It can help to look at it from where the CEO or your boss sits.  If you have serious concerns over a change, and after an honest assessment, you think your company is making a mistake (not just a little more work for you), address it privately. If you’re really concerned for your organization, approach your boss and say, “I’m concerned this will cause X problem. Have we thought about doing Y instead?”

Give space, both for yourself and in conversations with senior leadership, for new perspectives. It’s helpful to recognize that not every leader, even well-intended ones, is an exceptional change communicator, and there may be details or rationale that you’re missing.

Define the Win.
High performers know that our ability to wade through the muck (i.e. more work) of a change depends on having a clearly defined upside. If you’re the one communicating the change, it’s imperative you define the win for all the players involved, even if the win isn’t their personal happiness. Knowing that the organization, customers, or our colleagues will be better because of a change enables us to sustain momentum through change.

If you’re the receiver of the change (and the win for you was left out of the presentation) it’s your job to look for it and ask questions.

Choose curiosity over anxiety.
I’ve learned a lot from Cassandra Worthy, a fellow author, and LinkedIn Learning Instructor. She’s an expert in change management and earlier this year, she joined me on LinkedIn Live.

In our conversation, she said something that really stuck with me: What if we viewed change as an opportunity for growth?

As a self-professed control freak, I admire the gusto Cassandra brings into the unknown. She defines Change Enthusiasm as, “A mindset that when practiced, presents a sense of excitement for every change challenge. It is a mindset which enables those who practice it the ability to see the value of change, thereby quickly engaging in the opportunity to evolve in the face of frustration.” 

If you can’t muster up enthusiasm, I’ve found that choosing to be curious can help bridge the gap. Instead of jumping to “Well, that will never work!” ask your brain to consider: What if it did work? What could I do to make it work? Instead of reacting with “that’s so much extra effort!” take a few minutes to reflect on: What’s the win if we do it well? What opportunities might we miss if we don’t move forward?

We’re only in control of our own behavior. Embracing change is a decision you can make every day. So next time you’re faced with a change, take a moment to marinate, find the win, and always lead with curiosity.

If you’d like to learn more about change management, check out our LinkedIn Learning course Learning to be Promotable.