Are You Ready For Change?

April 21, 2013

This post is adapted from my forthcoming book Change, the third in a series of practical books about life and leadership. The other two, Money and Authority are available for $2.99. 

Whether it be your personal life or the life of your organization, everything changes. What’s your response to change? Does it inject adrenaline into your system, or cause you to panic?

Change isn’t always easy.

One area of change that can affect your organization the most is in the senior leadership team or structure.  Horror stories of botched leadership transitions abound. For instance, when Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, hired a new CMO while the current one was on vacation…that was an awkward conversation to say the least.

When I set out to transition from leadership in the church, I had a deep desire to do so in a way that was loving and honoring, with a long term goal of maintaining the relationships that are so important to me. It hasn’t all been easy; I’ve battled a full range of emotions. For over twelve years, every aspect of my family, career, social, and church life revolved around being on staff. When I made the final decision, I actually cried…a lot. It was as if twelve years of life’s blessings and challenges hit me at once and I was overcome emotionally. I’m thankful for both the old and new opportunities and what the transitions have allowed me to learn.

Four things I’ve learned about change.

1. Relationships matter most. Sure, you may work on some cool projects, see the organization grow, experience new technology and all manner of exciting things. But at the end of of the day, you don’t really care as much about the things and the projects as you do the people. The people, the friendships, the shared memories are what you take with you when you make a change.

2. A change in title doesn’t change your identity. You’re more than just a title. It’s hard to swallow, especially if you’ve been at something for a while, but your identity is not found in what you do but who you are. If you hang on too tightly to the titles you’ll be lost when they’re gone.

3. Honor and celebrate the past. If you’re like me, you’re hard on yourself. The failures stand out way clearer than any of the accomplishments. However there are always evidences of grace, things worth celebrating. Write them down and practice thankfulness before it’s too late and you forget. When the next season of change comes you can use the list as a reminder to yourself of how it went last time.

4. Keep the long view in mind. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the immediate emotions of a big life change, but you need to keep things in perspective. Learn from older men and women how they handled similar changes and ask what they would do differently or the same.  Where did they overreact or feel anxious when they didn’t need to? It’s easy to waste a lot of worry on the what ifs. The long view guides you through the immediate changes with the big picture in mind.

Understanding how to walk through change may be one of the most important lessons you learn in life. Embracing change and the potential growth it can lead to will be life-giving to yourself, your family and the people in your organization.