5 Ways to Embrace Uncontrollable Change

Jennifer Nash Coaching Consulting-5 Strategies to Navigate Disruptive Change

A threatening pandemic, a volatile economy, seismic shifts in the employment landscape: This unfamiliar territory can feel overwhelming. It can be a particularly hard time for young graduates looking to find a job. Times like this can create surprise, loss of control, and uncertainty—key reasons why people resist change, according to Rosabeth Moss Kanter. However, while change invites loss, it offers possibility.

Instead of fearing the paradigm shifts that COVID-19 brings, this is an opportune time for professionals to hone and develop a key skill in their toolkit – the ability to adapt. To be flexible in a post-pandemic world, it’s critical to demonstrate agility and embrace change.

How do you deftly shift gears and adapt to this new normal?

I have identified 5 elements or “GIFTS” common to this large-scale change to help you transform your thinking about your life, leadership, and career. Leveraging these GIFTS will help you adapt to dynamic market conditions, embrace change, and succeed beyond COVID-19.

Be Generous

Research from the University of British Columbia shows that generosity benefits not only the receiver but the giver as well. Generosity lowers dementia risk, reduces depression and anxiety, and improves chronic pain management. Being generous results in high-quality relationships, longer lifespan, happiness, innovation, and more.

COVID-19 has highlighted how interconnected we are not just economically but socially too. A generous individual realizes that collaboration instead of competition allows the resource pie to expand and makes room for more of us.

Adopt a generosity mindset and seek ways to help others succeed. In doing so, you will help yourself flourish, grow, change, adapt, and learn. To succeed beyond COVID-19, think about how you can serve others and give to those around you. For instance, the small act of introducing two people over email can perhaps be a huge help to someone looking to expand their network.

Be Insightful

Shelter-in-place restrictions and international country lockdowns when COVID-19 hit the planet slowed the frantic pace of our overscheduled lives, calendars and routines. This created and continues to create unparalleled opportunity to increase self-awareness and insight. We now have more time to reflect on past experiences, present reality, and future dreams.

In January 2020, I hit a pause on my calendar to focus on personal development and transformation for three weeks. I spent time to understand myself better and rediscover my authentic self—one that was lost after a difficult divorce and years of working for others. I aligned purpose with vision and left the experience with clarity on how I wanted to continue helping others in my coaching and consulting practice.

Now, I meditate and journal in the mornings before I start work. In the afternoons, I take a movement break and practice yoga, or go for a walk, dance, or bike ride. In the evenings, I do breathwork and spend time in water to recharge and reset my energy levels.  

You can use this time to reassess, realign, and redirect efforts to introspect and make decisions. Think about what motivates you, where you see yourself in a few years, and chart a career plan.   

Be Flexible

Being able to shift and transition from where we are (our comfort zone) to where we want or need to go (outside of our comfort zone) demonstrates agility. It helps us pivot and reinvent ourselves to survive.

In my coaching work with select executive clients, I use Marshall Goldsmith’s Stakeholder Centered Coaching (SCC) process which enables flexibility through stakeholder feedback, learning agility, and measurable change.

Here’s how it works: Choose one behavior at which you’d like to get better. Seek periodic feedback from multiple stakeholders to learn how you are perceived by others. Then use this data to inform, adjust, and guide your communications, thinking, and behaviors going forward.

To strengthen your flexibility muscle, try one or more of the following activities:

  • Take up a new hobby
  • Learn a new language
  • Read a book on a subject you know nothing about
  • Do daily activities with your non-dominant hand
  • Consider a recent challenge and brainstorm three different solutions to the challenge

To survive and succeed in the post COVID-19 world, you must demonstrate flexibility and agility to dynamically adapt, learn, grow, and be resilient.

Be Together

COVID-19 has powerfully hammered home the lesson that we as humans are dependent on each other for survival. You should focus on creating community through virtual networking activities, joining professional groups and associations, and strengthening social media connections.

Are you reaching out to a new connection on LinkedIn? Before you send a message, think about why you want to connect with this individual, and one way you can help them. This helps you be collaborative and creates opportunity for shared goals.

The benefits of solidarity are clear. We are stronger together than we are apart. We know from research that togetherness through healthy relationships positively impacts lifelong happiness, health, and wellbeing. It’s important to remember that our strength is in our togetherness: We supported each other through the pandemic and will need to move toward an uncertain future together.

Be Strengths Aware

Playing to your strengths is a key survival skill. When we operate using strengths, we have more energy and engage deeper in our work.  

Research shows news consumption negatively impacts mood, mental health, and physical health. To stay strong, present, and focused, here are some things you can do:

  • Remove triggers from your environment by limiting your consumption of social media or disengaging from conversations and people that pull you down.
  • Focus on one task at a time – don’t try to multitask.
  • Practice self-care.
  • Make healthy food choices.
  • Get sufficient exercise.
  • Sleep well.

Select ten friends and family members to provide viewpoints on three observed strengths and three observed behaviors you want to improve upon. Review the data to understand how you are perceived by others. Then, map out a strategic plan with desired goals, outcomes and tactics to help flex your behavior and change perceptions.

Identifying, understanding, and leveraging your strengths contributes to resiliency, positive mindset, and helps you be even more successful. Leveraging these five gifts will help you embrace and adapt to uncontrollable change.

This article was first published on HBR Ascend.

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