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4 November 2020

Welcome to another Wednesday Wisdom. Every week, I share with you what I'm thinking about life, work and leadership. This week we're talking about change. Love getting your WW? Forward it on to someone else who might enjoy it! Finding us in spam? Add us to your safe senders list.

If you’re not doing ‘change’ right now, you’re not in fashion.

Whether it’s organisational change, personal transformation (hi Spring!) or even career change, it’s in the springtime air. I’m so down for this.

Change is my favourite thing – new growth, new ideas and new possibilities. But apparently, not everyone feels the same. People are always grumbling to me about how “resistant to change” their colleagues and teams are. Rubbish. People don’t fear change – as Heifetz and Linsky point out, no-one gives back a winning lottery ticket! It’s loss that people are afraid of.

The world got weird

In 2020, the world feels less knowable than it used to, and the potential for loss seems around every corner. People are losing their freedom, families and jobs as COVID continues to ravage the globe. In New Zealand, we’re bizarrely insulated from the primary impacts of the pandemic, but the secondary ones are starting to hit hard. Economic uncertainty and border closures are sending a ripple effect through our businesses, policy-making and future planning.

COVID aside, work and the world in general just feels less knowable than it used to, doesn’t it? Our parents and grandparents left school, got a job, and felt confident doing that job for the length of their career. It wasn’t necessarily easy, but it felt stable.

Teachers taught. Lawyers lawyer-ed. Doctors doctor-ed.  But now, when my kids talk about what they want to be when they grow up, I’m not sure what to say. What is a teacher, in pandemic uncertainty and with online learning? What are lawyers, as we advance blockchain, encrypted data and global commerce? How will medicine evolve as bedside assistants become robots, society ages, the middle-class questions vaccines and biotechnology hurtles ahead? 

Change is constant

If you’ve got personal, organisational or career change on the cards, take heart. According to a LinkedIn source, people will, on average, switch jobs fifteen times in their lifetime, which could include a handful of significant career shifts. The rules are different now, and the options available to us are more varied and flexible than ever before.

Change is not new. We’ve been grappling with new occupations, ideas, and technologies since forever. But the kind of change we’re dealing with is different. Like our career paths, it feels less knowable than before. Things are more complex.

Lucky for us, complexity’s not a bad thing. Complex systems, like in nature, are more resilient and adaptive. We lose our more fragile bits as we go through adversity and come out the other side smarter, stronger and better prepared for the next thing.

You're made for this

People, communities, businesses, society and policy have been growing, changing, learning and improving for centuries. Sometimes it’s slow and we hardly notice how far we’ve come unless we look back. Sometimes it’s fast, scary and turns everything upside down.

Either way, it’s OK. We’re built for this. We’re an evolutionary animal, and we thrive on the chance to make things better – as long as we feel like we’re part of it. So don’t step back. Don’t be a plastic bag, battered around by the winds of change. Focus on your bit. The exciting bit. The learning, the growth and the opportunities.

And hey - I know you can’t feel like that every day. It might be that today, this email hits your inbox and you roll your eyes and swear at me through your phone. That’s cool, I get it. Some days, it’s fine to get up and feel grumpy, worried, and resentful. Being a person is hard. Being a person who doesn’t know what’s coming next is even harder.

But you can’t stay there – and it’s unlikely you will. Take the day, be emo, and then start again tomorrow.

You’re born to change. Keep moving.

Til next week

- A

For more on this, check out this pre-COVID post and video on responding to unexpected change. When I made this video, I was recently divorced and filming in a tiny wee rental a few weeks into my new life. I thought 2019 was tough, but 2020 would be a nice, settled year where everything came together. Ha! What a time. My videos weren’t too flash then, but the message still stands.

On the problem with restructures… I went on a bit of a rant about restructures recently. You might remember it from last week’s blog. Feeling guilty about throwing stones without helping, I wrote this article about what you should do instead.

On giving the power back to people… Executives have no idea what’s going on at the front line. That’s not their fault, but it means that organisational change needs to happen down the food chain. In this post, I outline the iceberg of ignorance and share the results of my latest Fast Forward cohort.

On professional development… It’s never been more important to equip people with the skills and knowledge they need to do a good job. I’m pulling back from in-person delivery as I put my head down and work out how best to support you and your teams with your development.  Share your thoughts and be in to win a free three-month mentoring package, valued at $5K + GST.  
Copyright © 2020 Alicia McKay NZ, All rights reserved.

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