At some point in every person’s professional life, they are called upon to manage change. Big change.
That point arrived for all of us with a bang this spring.
During the past three months I’ve seen nonprofit staffers and volunteers respond to the pandemic in two very distinct ways:
Strategy One: OK, the world has changed. Let’s get on with it and change, too.
Strategy Two: I’m going to do what I have to do to ride this baby out and then get back to normal ASAP.
I’m not an epidemiologist or a politician, but I do think that change is here to stay. Riding things out likely isn’t a realistic option at this point. At the very least, we know our fundraising work will be impacted through the end of the year.
There’s a big difference between coping and adapting. I want to gently suggest that it’s time to start moving beyond coping and get yourself lined up to truly adapt.
As a leader, adaptation takes more than putting one foot in front of the other. It requires intention. Things are moving too fast for us to allow change to happen organically and then look back on it and wonder how it happened. The stakes are just too high.
Now’s the time to get yourself in the frame of mind to take on change with a sense of purpose. Here are just a few ideas for warming up your change muscles:
Find a book on change and read it.
Change is ubiquitous and the management and self-help canons are overflowing with guides on how to deal with it, from the ultra-simple Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson to the more self-reflective Leading with Greatness by Brene Brown. Over the years, I have often turned to the classic Transitions by William Bridges. A cursory search will turn up dozens of options for you.
Read a history book – even historical fiction if that’s your preference.
We are living through historic times. A little perspective can go a long way to making you feel more comfortable with our particular brand of upheaval. There’s nothing like reading about wars and earlier plagues to make us realize we can most certainly handle what’s happening at work! A lot of people are recommending The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles is outstanding.
Practice having an open mind.
I say “practice” because that’s what it takes to change habitual ways of thinking. Now’s the time to recast the future as one of completely new possibilities. You’re concerned that you’re not going to be able to have your fall gala in the same way you always have? Well, maybe that’s a good thing. Why were you doing that gala in the first place? Are there better or different ways to achieve the same objectives? Assume nothing. Consider everything. Meditation is a good tool for re-training your mind. An app like Calm or Headspace can get you started.
Remember…we’re all learning.
Making progress requires making errors. Remind yourself of this every day. Things are really different, so as you test new things, not all of them will pan out. Keep track of what works and what doesn’t and apply what you learn to your next effort. Kara Penn’s Fail Better offers great advice on this topic.
Change is coming at us fast and furious, but you still have time to get yourself ready for the long haul. With a little mental prep and some new skills, you can forge a new path with intention and optimism.