Prosper in the Midst of Change
by Karim Jaude

Change hits, whether you invite it or not. The best you can do is to get ready for it and navigate with it. Only then, can you and your business prosper in the midst of change.

Uncertainty abounds around us, as seen in today's corporate climate. We feel the discomfort, confusion, insecurity and high stress. We see change and feel incompetent to deal with it.

Imagine you've been a faithful employee for the past 13 years. Then one day, no fault of your own, it's over. You find yourself without work. The one thing you know how to do that you've always done, no one is hiring for that same job anymore. You've become unemployable, obsolete.

Or, suddenly, less experienced, less educated, younger colleagues become your boss. Change and disparity happen. The workplace has a glut of 24-year-old company ex-presidents from the former hi-tech boom (many of whom didn't know what they were doing, and still don't). I'm 56. At a recent Brentwood meeting I walked into a room full of young executives, the oldest was 35.

Change.

What do you do?

Change happens fast. Then, we're stuck with it. But how we deal with it will determine our success. I recommend you prepare to:

  1. Recognize it.
  2. Admit it.
  3. Accept it.
  4. Benefit from it.
  5. Have fun with (vs. resist) it.

Preparation for the unexpected reduces the hard knocks. The loss can often create a new opportunity for you, instead of an obstacle. Maybe now you can start that new training you thought you might need some day.

How ready are you for change in our ever-changing world? Rank yourself on these points:

  • How comfortable am I in my current situation?
  • In what ways might I already be obsolete?
  • Do I have the skills to evolve given a dilemma?
  • How do I plan to re-engineer myself?
  • Do I respond or react to change?

Let's look at what you can do:

  • Give up something. (Including denial.) Be willing to see change as part of the overall package. To get what you want in life, you have to forgo something else. It seems hard to let go… until we realize - finally! - it's much harder to hang on. Old School managers have the toughest time (terminal denial). They still operate under Army Style Management: "This is your job. I tell you what to do. You do it. (No questions asked.)"

    Consider my 60-year-old client who ran a $130 million operation. Himself. It ran his way, though he had 2 sons, 1 brother, and a sister in the business. He controlled everything and signed every check himself. He trusted no one, yet felt he ran the place like Swiss clockwork. Until, one day, a computer virus showed up. We hired a consultant to fix it. However, in the process, he also discovered that 1/3 of the company's 100 employees wasted up to 4 business hours daily in computer game playing, gambling, and porn. My client first denied the assertions, then only acknowledged the problem when the consultant told him exactly who did what on which computers. Aghast, the ol' guy finally agreed to let go. He dismissed 35 employees; fired himself; hired an interim manager; and, brought someone in to groom his unprepared sons to become CEO and President/COO. Remember, the greater the value of achievement usually means the greater the cost.

  • Change with change. More than one successful businessperson has made their fortune in a field other than the one they started in.

    I know a lawyer who, after the war in Lebanon, could no longer continue his practice for lack of demand. Instead, he established an import/export business. Eventually, he built a plant to manufacture construction materials, specializing in window glass. My client now sells glass throughout the Middle East and earns more money than I do. The very war that had shattered his profession had also shattered buildings and windows nationwide, from which he then derived his new fortune.

  • Assess your confidence. Avoid under-estimating a situation's potential.

    In a local business group, I met a very proficient, young businessman in money management. You could tell he had learned a lot over the years from the corporate and executive positions he had held. At one of our meetings, I learned he had been offered the presidency of a small company and turned it down. I became furious! Why would he ever think of refusing such a prime opportunity? Sadly, he admitted, he did not 'feel' competent enough for the position. Thus, he lost an opportunity to earn 5 times his current income! Great change came, but he wasn't ready for success. Maybe he didn't think himself qualified, but the VP of HR who offered him the job sure did. Know your strengths, and trust the positive assessment of others.

  • Diversify or specialize. It works as well on Main Street as it does on Wall Street.

    I know a family-owned office supply business. They've done well over the past 2 or 3 generations. Then Staples came to town, Office Depot opened up near them, and they could no longer compete. The owner, his wife, and their sole clerk became despondent, faced with loss of their livelihood. After consultation, he decided to convert their product-line to distinctive items the others didn't carry. Today, he provides specialized supplies and repair for office equipment exclusively, and employs 17 staff in a business that has prospered better after the crisis than ever before.

  • Project into the future. Weigh the past and imagine future trends, but get ready for them in the present.

    The IT industry moves so fast that, by the time information reaches your hands, it 's already outdated. I consult for an entrepreneur in the computer installation and service field. We need to forecast not just his business, but also his industry as a whole. Together we imagine potential software and voice recognition systems that will be needed when today's hardware-specifically, the keyboard-becomes obsolete. We approach his business with queries such as, "What will happen when today's computing media goes the same route of LP's, or VHS tape…?"

Let's summarize the steps from the case studies above for prospering amidst change:

  1. Know and work on yourself.
  2. Improve your skills.
  3. Build confidence.
  4. Know your industry.
  5. Be prepared (or at least, aware) for the unexpected.

Visionary leaders take 15 minutes every day to prepare. Each day, they ask themselves, "What if…" It may mean "What if I loose 10 clients tomorrow? What are my choices?" Or, it may mean, "What if we take the risk? How could we benefit from that chance?"

How ready are you to prosper when change offers the opportunity?


Karim A. Jaude (The Coach) is the founder of "BusinessCoach1"; a business and professional coaching service. For over six years he has been coaching entrepreneurs, executives and professionals to develop their skills, promote and grow their business, their teams and themselves; and to achieve peak performance while have fun in the process. He coaches by phone or in person. He practices in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles. Karim can be reached at 310-471-4185. E-mail: coachu@businesscoach1.com, website www.businesscoach1.com .

Many more articles in Executive Performance in The CEO Refresher Archives

   


Copyright 2004 by Karim A. Jaude. All rights reserved.

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