By: Susan Mahoney
When I work with sales leaders and sales professionals in large organizations, I see a trend of massive changes, re-organizations, new leadership, new strategies, and new processes.
Many people try to hunker down and wait out the changes, but, the changes aren’t going to stop.
Unfortunately, by waiting, these people pull back on the activities and actions they could do to provide a sense of control and some forward movement. Here are four pieces of advice I give people to stay productive and engaged while working in a constantly changing and chaotic work environment.
1. Get Clear On Your Personal Brand
When I talk with managers who are frustrated, unsure of the direction of their company or department, and concerned about how this instability may impact their future, I encourage them to think about themselves. I recommend that sales people and sales managers spend the time to build out their personal brands—even if they plan to stay with the same company.
An organization’s perception of your value can’t be left to chance, and you can shape and influence it.
Being deliberate about how you want others to receive your personal brand contributes to a sense of control of your destiny.
When developing your personal brand, think about your favorite consumer brand. What are your expectations for product quality and performance, for cutting-edge design, for access to support and for packaging and advertising? Now think about key stakeholders whom you want to influence, either at your own company or outside it. How do you want these key stakeholders to view you, your perceived value, your style and your level of performance? How do you want them to see your leadership capabilities, knowledge, skills, level of curiosity, level of team collaboration? By thinking through how you want your personal brand to come across, and to whom, you can begin to enhance your strengths and close the gap on weaker areas. Then, you can build out a plan for connecting your brand through internal relationships, performance reviews, feedback sessions, and potentially the use of social media.
We need to control and influence how we are perceived within an organization.
If we leave it to chance, it might be influenced by others who don’t have your best interest in mind.
2. Keep Learning
According to Pamela McLean in her book, The Handbook of Coaching, continuous learning is the secret weapon of adult empowerment in this age of constant change. It’s very easy to lock ourselves into assumptions we developed in our youth, even as the world changes at warp speed around us.
It’s just as easy to lose the learning edge in mid-career, leaving leadership to others.
To regain a sense of control and empowerment for your future, determine areas of learning for yourself, both technical and non-technical, even if it doesn’t directly relate to your work. For example, you could learn what’s happening with Artificial Intelligence in your field, related fields and with your customers. What can you learn about significant initiatives that your customers and their respective industries are launching? Is it time for a refresh on your selling or managing skills? How about an improv class to help you reframe challenging situations? There are so many innovative ways to learn today, and you don’t necessarily have to sign up for a formal class.
3. Understand The Cycle
Every career has its highs and lows.
When you’re surrounded by constant change and a feeling of chaos within the organization, it’s easy to get discouraged. Understanding the cycles of careers and life can help.
The Hudson Institute of Coaching uses a Cycle of Renewal framework, which can be useful. Every career or job starts with an exciting and energizing period of building. Then, naturally, we hit a plateau where we may feel restless, pessimistic and stuck. Just knowing this is a natural cycle can be reassuring.
Most importantly, if you are in a plateau, it’s time to re-energize with a new direction, new activities, or new training. We may repeat this cycle many times in our careers, and it’s essential that we do in order to stay fresh. At some point, we may decide that it’s time for a more significant change, perhaps one that takes us in an entirely new direction.
4. Embrace Change
Change is constant in most organizations, as it is in every other part of our lives. Change in organizations is stressful to the people it impacts, and people don’t perform well under constant stress. We tend to be resistant to change because parts of our brain see it as a threat and release hormones that tell us to fight or flight. When faced with a new situation, our instincts try to relate a known experience to this new situation.
There are very real psychological costs to change.
In his book Managing Transitions, William Bridges presents a change model called the three phases of transitions: Endings, The Neutral Zone, and Beginnings. Here are some approaches to consider as you find yourself in each of these phases:
- Endings: Something is changing in your work life that will impact you. To accept and move through this phase, you must let go of the old. In this phase, it’s time to determine what will stay and what will go. It’s also important to think about ways to embrace the change so that it doesn’t feel like something being done to you.
- The Neutral Zone: The essence of this phase is ambiguity. You are unsure of what has ended, and even more unsure if the new beginning has actually started. This is an important time to pay attention to the significance of networking, to keep contacts active, and to engage in useful career social media activity.
- Beginnings: The formal start and the psychological start of a new beginning are two different processes. There can be some doubt about trusting the new beginning. This is an excellent time to take stock of your skills and competencies and make necessary changes. By getting actively involved in the new change, you can feel some sense of control.
Ultimately, we are held back from change by fear. We may fear of loss of control or fear being unable to cope with the unknown. When fear takes over, logic is no help as fear crowds it out, followed quickly by anxiety and panic. In Jenny Rogers book, Coaching Skills, she proposes that one of the reasons we stay fixed within a problem is that there is some payoff for doing so.
The prison of misery might be horrible, but at least it’s familiar.
We all have sabotaging inner voices that act to preserve the status quo for fear of change.
In this environment of constant change and chaos, the one thing you can control is your own development. By following strategies for surviving—and thriving—in the midst of uncertainty, you can do more than wait out the change. Instead, you can use this time and this challenge to propel yourself to the next level of your career.