Six tips for surviving and thriving in the face of change

Six tips for surviving and thriving in the face of change

Dan Bobinski

The tried and true may have worked well up until now, but is it the best way to continue? Many organizations are facing new challenges and opportunities, and if you’ve been around a while, you know that you can count on the fact changes will occur. But how managers and leaders implement those changes can make the difference between surviving and thriving.

Medical Dealer | Slice of Life | Six tips for surviving and thriving in the face of changeAbout 10 years ago I read about research conducted by psychologist Jeffrey Schwartz and executive coach David Rock. They had extrapolated practical application from brain research and neuroscience on how people deal with change. From their findings, I selected what I consider to be the three most practical things a company can do to give their change efforts the very best chance of succeeding. Those three things are Focus (on the big picture), Expectation (of “a-ha” moments of insight), and Attention Density (the amount of attention devoted to a subject over time).

As a brief overview, Focus is the big picture of change that is provided throughout the organization, and the earlier it is disseminated, the better. Big picture is exactly that – a broad vision of the new direction without too many details.

Expectation refers to a cultural atmosphere that leadership establishes. Stated another way, leadership plants an expectation that people will have cool ideas for how to best bring about the new big picture. This creates maximum buy-in; A deep-seated ownership of the change at multiple levels.

Attention Density means you keep talking about the focus and the expectation. You make the big picture a frequent part of the workplace conversation, and you acknowledge, applaud, and encourage ongoing dialog on the ideas people offer on making the change a reality.

That’s the overview. Now for some shoe leather. How people engage change at all levels in an organization can make a huge difference in its success. The following is a more tangible list of things everyone can do to help changes work out for the best.

1. Stay Engaged.

Whether we’re a high-profile superstar or an unsung hero, the work we do contributes to a common good. If we back off in the face of change, important connections and communication lines start to fade away. Instead of withdrawing from change, refocus and think “excellence.” In every aspect of your job, ask yourself, “If someone else were looking at my attitude toward my work, would they consider it to be excellent?”

Aside from an internal attitude of staying involved, we can also join a committee or a project team. Our purpose should be to stay plugged into the projects occurring throughout our organization.

2. Keep an Eye on the Big Picture

Since our workplace is more than just our own workstation, we expand our value to the organization by looking at how change is occurring at all levels. Even the picture outside the organization needs to be considered: Baby Boomers are aging, global markets are expanding, technology is improving, budgets are getting tighter, and consumers are better-informed and more involved than ever before.

We should also consider changes in our individual industries. This can be done by staying active in professional associations, reading industry journals, attending conferences, and even surfing the Internet for industry news.

Being aware of our company’s long-term goals (including vision and mission statements) should help us stay engaged in what is happening around us.

3. Talk and Listen.

We are better able to interpret the events around us if we stay in tune with others about what’s going on. This means talking with others about what we’re seeing and seeking out and considering their observations, too.

We can learn from others in our work area, and also from people in other parts of the company – or even from outside the company. We can ask people their perspective of how recent changes are affecting their work and how they’re dealing with the obstacles.

4. Look for Ways to Be of Value

Solving problems is part of every job. Therefore, since change always brings new problems, we must resolve to be part of the solution.

Think of it this way: It’s one thing to identify a problem, it’s something else to solve it.

Another way to increase our value is to increase our self-awareness. Knowing our strengths and weaknesses gives us a better idea of how to adapt to change as needed. One way to accomplish this is through a personal SWOT Analysis. Compare your strengths and weaknesses with the opportunities and threats that accompany any change. Then decide how to capitalize on your strengths, and also what needs to be shored up on your weaknesses to take advantage of opportunities and minimize any threats.

5. Be Flexible.

Look for ways to blend changes into your normal routine. Think in terms of creating new traditions, or new systems.

Naturally, we need to maintain efficiency and effectiveness, but flexibility allows us to roll with the changes instead of slamming up against them. We can be flexible in both our attitudes and our responsibilities. One client of mine put it like this: “Be keen on finding efficient ways for adapting to new realities.”

6. Learn From Your Network.

Since people in our network are probably facing changes themselves, they serve as a sounding board as well as a safety net. I like the Benjamin Franklin quote, “If we don’t hang together, we’re going to hang separately.” Be willing to ask a lot of questions.

Bottom line: How we approach change affects how it impacts us. We can work to accommodate it, or we might get flattened as it rolls over us. As always, what we do is a choice. My recommendation? Stay focused on the upcoming big picture, eagerly expect “a-ha” moments for how to make the change work better, and make both of these part of your regular conversations. By doing these things, your chances of success go way up.

Dan Bobinski is a certified behavioral analyst, author of the best-selling “Creating Passion-Driven Teams” and president of His latest book is “Removing Obstacles to Success.” He travels internationally helping organizations of all shapes and sizes. Reach him at or 208-375-7606.